The Importance of Airline Safety
Many people travel by airplane all around the world. For some people it is the only way they can get to where they are going. On a daily basis, averages of 28 to 30,000 seats are filled on airplanes (Bear, Stearns Co. URL www.hotelonline.com). At each airport, there are hundreds of arrivals and departures worldwide. Even though airline officials say flying is safe, accidents kill many people because airlines neglect to prevent human error or repair faulty equipment.
Sometimes I think the only reason an airplane could crash is if something on the plane were to break. However, most of the time that is not the case. A survey conducted by Boeing found that flight crews were responsible for at least seventy-three percent of all fatal airplane accidents. (Gray 17). Forty-one percent of these accidents occurred during landing because of unstable approaches. Also an investigation by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on the causes of airline accidents revealed that more than eighty percent of all airline accidents involved some degree of human error (Helmreich 62). This is very alarming when people are putting their lives in the hands of flight crews. Forty-four passengers died aboard a new British Midland 737 after its crew shut down the wrong engine after the other one malfunctioned (Greenwald 40). Do you really think that flying on an airplane, over which you have absolutely no control is very safe?
Reasons for flight crew error can be explained by the conditions under which they are flying. Flight crew fatigue is a largely increasing problem on many of the jumbo jet flights today. Although there are laws that prohibit cockpit crews from sleeping in flight, there have been many weary pilots that have been known to nod off on occasion during some of their seventeen hour, non-stop flights (Urquhart 15). Perhaps laws should regulate the number of hours a flight crew is in the air instead of prohibiting sleep in flight. Another condition, alcohol abuse, has been found to inhibit the abilities of some flight crews. A northwest crew flying from North Dakota to Minnesota was found to be intoxicated on the job ("Air Safety" 61). Some people refuse to drive at night because of the number of drunk drivers on the road. Would passengers want a drunken pilot to be responsible for their lives while 20,000 feet up in the air?
Another reason for flight crew error is pressure to meet flight time schedules. Some of these flights take place during hazardous weather conditions. When I was younger, I saw an airplane crash at the St. Louis Airport after the pilot was ordered to take off even though the plane had ice on its wings. The airplane skidded off the runway because the pilot could not control the steering mechanisms on the icy runway. Other incidents have occurred solely because of bad weather and an urgency to stay on schedule. When flight 803 came in to land at...