In most phases of flight — including takeoff, climb, en route and approach — 22% of those on board survived fatal crashes in the 1970s, compared with 15% in 2000-09.
More passengers are surviving fatal airline accidents during landing, but survival rates during stages of flight when most accidents happen have not improved from decades ago, a new USA TODAY study shows.
Only 9% of fatal accidents since 1970 occurred during landing, while the vast majority happened during other phases of flight. In those other phases — which include takeoff, initial climb, en route and approach to an airport — 22% survived in the 1970s, compared with 15% in the most recent decade (2000-09).
Fatal accidents are rare. U.S. airlines operate more than 9 million flights annually and, according to the study, were involved in just five fatal accidents from Jan. 1, 2008, through July 10, 2013. The number of accidents worldwide has also declined. There were 394 such accidents in the 1970s, compared with 269 from Jan. 1, 2000, through July 10, 2013.
USA TODAY's exclusive study — which analyzed Aviation Safety Network fatal accident data from Jan. 1, 1970 through July 10, 2013, for aircraft 12 seats or more — looked at 1,268 fatal airline accidents worldwide that killed 42,444 passengers and 4,510 crewmembers. The Netherlands-based Aviation Safety Network gathers accident data for the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Flight Safety Foundation.
Of fatal accidents worldwide since 1970, the largest percentage — nearly 40% — happened on approach. During that flight phase, 18% of people survived fatal accidents in the 1970s and 20% in 2000-09. If recent fatal accidents are included, just 18% survived from Jan. 1, 2000, through July 10, 2013.
Former National Transportation Safety Board chairman Jim Hall reviewed the data in the study and agreed with USA TODAY's conclusions.
"It is fascinating," Hall said. "I don't draw any different conclusions than you did."
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