Aviation Safety’s Record for 2012 was Exceptional; the Challenge for 2013 and beyond is to Reinstate the Protection of Voluntarily Submitted Data

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Report: 2012 was the safest year for aviation since 1945

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It was a remarkable year for aviation safety with only 23 deadly accidents and 475 fatalities for the 365 days on that calendar. The performance for large commercial aircraft is more impressive with no fatal accidents since 2001. This record is translated statistically to the individual experience by an MIT scholar:

“In the last five years, the death risk for passengers in the United States has been one in 45 million flights, according to Arnold Barnett, a professor of statistics at M.I.T. In other words, flying has become so reliable that a traveler could fly every day for an average of 123,000 years before being in a fatal crash.”

How was aviation able to attain this high level of safe operation? The focus of aviation professionals has moved from reactive to proactive by assessing data trends. The FAA and industry have designed systems that collect and analyze data that points to potential problems. These numbers facilitate the development of solutions before the trend lines that point to disasters.

As noted here, the FAA’s willingness to ignore the protections implemented to have pilots, airlines and other certificate holders report these data points is DETERING the submission of these incredibly valuable data points. There is episodic information which indicates the threat of enforcement is blocking the flow.

Yes, 2012 was a GREAT YEAR for aviation safety but there is some risk that the FAA’s failure to protect these submissions from punitive actions will make it harder to achieve an even higher level of safety. Administrator Huerta needs to reestablish the protections to continue the trend lines for 2103 and beyond.

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