In 2014, more than 848 million travelers chose to travel by plane rather than other methods. This is a huge number, but one can shrink that number quickly by pointing out the fact that many people we know and love were probably included in those 848 million. Taking this into account, preliminary statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board found that there were more than 1,200 airline accidents and over 250 fatalities during that same year.
While 250 fatalities may not seem like a lot when compared to the 848 million people that traveled by plane in 2014, we must keep in mind that those who unfortunately died in aviation accidents that year had something in common with many of us: they chose to ride on a plane. Although many of us probably did not know the 250 people who died in 2014, these people put their lives in the hands of the pilot of the plane they were on, just like many of us do when we travel.
It is quite ironic that passengers put their faith in the pilots, however, because pilots are often cited as the cause of aviation accidents in the first place. There are many studies making the argument that as much as 80% of aviation accidents are caused by human error, while only around 20% are caused by mechanical error.
Interestingly, these numbers are opposite from the numbers that used to be observed over 100 years ago. Back in the early 1900’s, as high as 80% of aviation accidents were caused by mechanical error, while as little as 20% were caused by human error.
Many pilots are concerned that the automation of newer airplanes causes pilots to become complacent and lose the skills it takes to respond to an emergency situation. Because of this, pilots are arguing that more time needs to be spent practicing in flight simulators to maintain proficiency. Only time will tell whether or not pilots will be required to spend more time in flight simulators, but it could be the key to finally lowering the number of aviation accidents and making our skies safer.