Recent reports surfaced that this year was the safest year for flying on commercial airlines for the United States. This was the seventh year of not having a single commercial fatality, and thus, this was America's safest year in worldwide commercial passenger aviation according to the Aviation Safety Network. The Netherlands-based group tracks aircraft accidents, aggregates the data, and consolidates it for further study.
The commercial airline safety streak started back in February 2009 after a Colgan Air flight crashed and killed nearly 50 people near Buffalo, New York. (Writer's note: it should be mentioned that the phrase "commercial airline" refers to those strictly passenger carriers. There were 10 fatal cargo accidents last year.) However, flying still remains the 'safest' way to travel.
"Since 1997, the average number of airliner accidents has shown a steady and persistent decline, for a great deal thanks to the continuing safety-driven efforts by international aviation organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and the Flight Safety Foundation," said Harro Ranter, president of the Aviation Safety Network.
"This has been a long-time process," said Seth Young, director of the Center for Aviation Studies at Ohio State University. "I don’t think we can point to anything that we did in 2017 that resulted in zero fatals in United States airlines. But 2017 was evidence of a solid decade of improvements."
"We’d like to see the world get that level, where you’re talking about fatal accidents the way you talk about a 50-year or 100-year storm,"
Mark Millam manages safety programs and serves as Vice President of the Flight Safety Foundation. He said there was a recent push to collect stronger data from the runway in order to prevent non-fatal accidents. He said sharing that information between airlines and between areas could quickly help identify risks with the intentions of fixing them.
"We’d like to see the world get that level, where you’re talking about fatal accidents the way you talk about a 50-year or 100-year storm," Millam said. "That would be awesome."
There was one person's voice in particular who wanted to take credit for the improvement. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that he'd cracked down on commercial aviation since his presidency began.
Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news - it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
However, with over seven years of gradual improvements and small changes all contributing to the numbers, Twitter users around the world quickly called out Trump's tweet, wanting him to give credit where credit was actually due.
Regardless of who takes the credit on the public stage, what matters is that for now, the U.S.'s commercial airlines are the safest they've ever been. And with over 2 million passengers flying domestically each day, that safety is ever more important.