Aircraft disasters have been happening a lot lately and many frequent travelers are asking: Is it still safe to fly? The truth is current passenger airplanes are significantly more advanced than their predecessors, and are ahead in terms of safety and technology. So, what could be causing these accidents?
A BBC News article cites pilot error as the primary cause of most plane crashes worldwide, accounting for 50% of all fatal accidents, based on statistics from PlaneCrashInfo.com. Data gathered by the International Civil Aviation Organization from 2006 to 2011 showed that a situation known as “controlled flight into terrain” (CFIT) was one of the prevalent pilot error cases. CFIT accidents involve totally airworthy planes, manned by capable pilots, which were unintentionally flown into terrains, such as bodies of water, mountains, or the ground.
Lack of proper communication also caused some of the biggest disasters in air travel history, like the infamous plane crash of 1978. The problem was pretty simple—low fuel—something that any crew member could have mentioned to the main pilot, but nobody did, and the plane ran out of fuel.
Although most accidents point to pilots as the likely cause, some experts believe that mechanical or equipment failure also largely contribute to crashes. An example is the popular Air France flight 447 incident in 2009, which took three years to resolve. Investigators found that the aircraft’s autopilot mechanism had malfunctioned while in turbulence over stormy seas.
Another accident in 1985 was caused by a badly repaired rear pressure bulkhead, which shattered in midair, causing the pilots to lose control of the aircraft. While mechanical or equipment failure only ranks third in crash causes (next to human error and weather), it still constitutes about 20% of accidents every 10 years, on average.
What Needs to Be Done
Improving pilot competency is, of course, paramount. While airline authorities can’t do much in the way of weather, aircraft manufacturers could make sure that components and parts come from AS9120 certified vendors and distributors. AS9120 is a quality management system (QMS) certification given to suppliers of aerospace parts and assemblies, among other industries, that meet specific standards of quality.
QMS certification is done to guarantee reliability in product performance. The AS9120 standard assures clients that the parts and components have undergone rigorous testing and inspection before being sold. In the case of the aerospace industry, having AS9120 certification lessens the risk of future accidents resulting from defective equipment.
If your business entails supplying aircraft parts and components to the aerospace industry, have your company assessed and audited by certification bodies, like the International Standards Authority, Inc.
Mechanical v human: Why do planes crash? Bbc.com
The Importance of Quality Management. Ehow.com