Do Commercial Airlines Learn from Near Miss Accidents?

Aviation small.jpgAre narrowly avoided airliner accidents actually making commercial air travel less safe?

That's the concern a team of researchers have developed after studying years of commercial airliner "near misses."

The researchers, from Georgetown University and Brigham Young University, reviewed commercial airline data from 1990 to 2007 and recently published their findings online. They found that most of the time when an airliner accident was avoided, the outcome was considered a success.

But the study concludes that these "successes" often led to complacency, meaning that since the crashes were avoided, airline officials failed to fully investigate what went wrong to prevent similar catastrophes in the future.

Causes of Airplane Crashes

Three main causes of aviation accidents are:

Pilot error

• Maintenance error

• Aircraft structural failure

The study indicates that commercial airlines learned from near-miss accidents only when:

• They fell into a recognized category

• The category was acknowledged to previously cause accidents, like one of the three above

So in other words, airline companies didn't always examine a dangerous action or condition that led to a near miss, since the accident didn't occur. No harm, no foul.

An example the researchers give of this is a 2000 commercial airline flight landing in California. The airliner crashed through a metal fence at the end of the runway, eventually stopping near a gas station. NTSB officials said the pilot used a risky landing approach regularly employed by other pilots at the same airport due to the length of the runway. This commonplace risky behavior had never before been called into question since it hadn't previously caused an accident.

The research also included data for one particular month at various U.S. airports. In that month, there were 40 times at just four airports when airliners were within three seconds of colliding with each other - near misses each.

When something goes wrong during a flight, the consequences can be horrific. Making the aviation accident even more tragic is learning that it was preventable.

If a family member was killed or if you were seriously hurt in an airplane crash, you may want to consult with an attorney who represents victims of aviation accidents to explore your legal options for obtaining justice from those responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.


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