Viasat Commercial Aviation Blog

2017: Aviation's safest year yet

The safest year in commercial aviation

2017 was the safest year in history for commercial airlines, according to industry research, separate reports by Dutch consultancy To70 and The Aviation Safety Network found. What this means in human terms, is that there was not a single death, and no crashes, in commercial aviation.

This was despite more flights being made than ever before. While the complete 2017 numbers aren't yet in, last year commercial aircraft carried 4.1 billion passengers, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This is nearly double the number of just 12 years ago, and it's expected to double again by 2030.

With approximately 24,000 commercial aircraft in service, up to 16,000 flights in the air at any one time, and the underlying drama of getting a heavy metal tube full of people to hurtle through the air to a specific point at the other side of the planet at over 500 mph, a full year with zero deaths is a genuine milestone.

Safety is no accident

But this is no accident. It requires the daily determination of four key groups of people:

  1. Pilots and cabin crew: pilots have the challenge of making 85,000 kg of metal and people overcome the force of gravity, dealing with turbulence and reacting quickly and effectively when anything goes wrong. Cabin crew are key to ensuring that if anything does go wrong, the risk to passengers is minimised. If you work in cockpit or cabin, we salute you!
  2. Engineers and maintenance technicians: A B737NG has approximately 600,000 parts and every one of these must be operating safely and efficiently to ensure a smooth, trouble-free flight. Hats off to the teams on the ground that get their hands dirty every day to keep us safe.
  3. Air traffic controllers: According to the US National Air Traffic Controllers Association, there are over 87,000 flights crisscrossing the United States every day. It's no surprise that ATCs are often used in TV commercials for headache tablets. We feel their pain and we thank them for their work.
  4. OEMs: Aircraft manufacturers, led by Boeing and Airbus, take the lead in ensuring that the product they sell is as safe as humanly possible. The manufacturers are also deeply involved in investigating every hull loss or accident, and findings always feedback into design improvements in both operational and future aircraft. Thousands of people are required to design and build every aircraft and they need to be on top of their game, every single day. Great job, everyone!

Aviation safety is everyone's business

We must also send a big shout-out to the airlines, which invest heavily in safety and the processes that help to ensure it, as well as ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which oversees safety standards across the world, and IATA, a private body that works with member airlines to help ensure safety, especially with its IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit).

Here's to another safe, exciting and record-breaking year in commercial aviation!

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