INTENTIONAL CONTACT WITH THE TERRAIN IS A REMINDER OF AVIATION’S HIGH LEVEL OF SAFETY AND OF GOAL TO FURTHER ENHANCE ITS PERFORMANCE

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ARTICLE: Plane Crashed on Purpose to Help People Survive

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Elwood Driver, former NTSB Member, once defined that all aviation accidents were caused by inadvertent contact with the terrain. The Discovery Channel decided to intentionally run a B-727 into the ground.

With all of the critical press and so called pundits who cast aspersions on aviation, it is easy to forget how really safe our business is. The Discovery Channel’s test crash was designed to assess survivability of an airplane (or as the typical reporter would phrase it “where the most unsafe place to sit is.”) The ABC story found a balanced and positive way to characterize the results and the general track record of aviation:

”The likelihood of dying in a plane crash is very small — crashes are very rare, and an astounding 76 percent of passengers aboard serious airplane crashes somehow survive.”

Even more useful was their statement of the results of the test. Among the things learned from these test crashes are ways to improve your personal safety:

  • Sit within five rows of an exit
  • Choose an aisle seat
  • Don’t sleep during takeoff and landing

These are good observations to follow when you fly.

Perhaps the most telling statistic quoted by Mr. Avila, the ABC correspondent, is the following:

“An MIT study found that the chance of dying on a scheduled flight in the United States is one in 14 million. At that rate, you would have to fly every day for 38 thousand years before getting caught in a fatal accident.”

While it is good to remind those of us who chose the aviation safety profession as our work or passion that we have attained such a high level of safety proficiency (38,000 years of daily flying!), it is more important to focus on the goal of achieving an even higher level of flight without accidents.

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