Introduction: According to Thaden and Alyssa (2008), “human error is the main cause of flight accidents in complex systems. Therefore since errors are inevitable in the commercial airline industry, it is doubtful to assure safety on the air.” On the other hand, Mangla and Haress (2011) claim that - “air travel is the safest mode in the history of aviation.” Whose statement is reliable between them? In aviation, it is true that human error leads to accidents in the sky, but it is also true that for every accident that happens on the air, the airline company reviews their safety policies, improves the system and maintenance, and makes sure that such accident will not happen again. The aim of this paper is to explain to the readers that commercial flights are safe as compared to other modes of transportation. Thesis: Is commercial flight safe? How safe is it? Yes, commercial flight is safe to use in travelling. According to statistics, even if several flight accidents happen on the air yearly, it is still safe because of continuous research and improvement of the airline service in compliance with the FAA standards.
The present status of commercial aviation - Safety and reliability are two factors that form the basis of providing services worldwide by the commercial airlines. Today, the safety status of commercial flights is significantly high. According to the aviation safety data, air travel is the safest way to travel (Mangla and Haress, 2011). Accidents or incidents of damage in persons or materials in commercial aviation are rare. This situation results from the complexity and diversity of the technical and organizational procedures/processes. Safety risks are significantly reduced because of the stiff review and inspection of the aircraft on the ground, sophisticated procedures and equipment, safety behaviors of the ground workers, airworthy documentation, and redundancy of systems. Since the world's passenger traffic would increase annually by 4.9 percent according to projection, the rate would triple by the year 2026. Because of this foresight, the airline industry is focusing on reducing the disruption and adverse incidents on this growth period by maximizing their multifaceted operations.
The safety policies that airlines should follow - When taking a commercial flight, a passenger is usually interested to know about the safety measures that an airline implements. These safety measures include the safety record of the airline, passenger safety, turbulences public service announcements, and hazardous materials information (Flying Safe, 2013). In most cases, however, the latent system deficiencies in commercial airlines result from mishandling by front line operators. By nature, humans have limited ability to make things perfect and because of this reason, accidents occur. Therefore, it is necessary to trace the wrong actions of those persons involved in the deficiency. For every error found in a system, undetected hazards come out breaching the system’s defenses. Today, research focuses on how to cut the dangerous effects of these errors by producing advanced technologies, improved tools, and systematic procedures. Regulatory oversight and organizational factors play significant roles in making high-risk systems safe. During the late 20th century, regulatory oversight and organizational factors helped in preventing accidents on the air (Mangla and Haress, 2011). In essence, the aviation organizations are responsible in providing safety for the passengers and crews within their organizations. On the other hand, it is the policy of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make sure that these airline organizations carry out their responsibilities and comply with the FAA standards on safety. The airline responsibilities for reducing hazard and making all their flights safe for travelling include safety procedures and processes, advanced technology, effective tools, modern equipment and facilities, strict regulations/guidance, and performance management. Over the past fifty years, rigid recruitment and training, advances in engineering, and other scientific efforts helped to lessen the occurrence of aviation accidents. These efforts include the improved training of airline crews focusing on those who carry multi-crew pilot licenses. In 2003, the rate of accidents in commercial aviation attributed to human error remained at 80 percent (Thaden and Gibbons, 2008). With regard to medical care, the FAA requires commercial and tourist flights to have pain medications and immediate remedies for motion sickness, such as oxygen masks and pressure suits on board. Moreover, longer-term flights should have a higher level of care, including spacesuits, medical training, and equipment (Ryan, 2012).
Statistics studies about accidents and the number of flights each day - According to the data from the International Air Transport Association, about 100,000 commercial aircrafts take off and land with many of them making a complete flight without incident. For many decades, the airline industry experienced a steady decline in air crashes. From 1970 to 2010, commercial flights tripled in departure from 9.4 million to 28 million. In 2010, more than 3 billion passengers took commercial flights with only 210 fatalities according to the Aviation Safety Network report. On that 40-year span, commercial aviation experienced a drop in accidents each decade, with only a small increase in number during the 1990s. The average of accidents per year during the 1970s was 68.1, and by the 2000s, it declined to 39.6 per year. The number of fatalities in the 1970s was 1,676 per year, and by the 2000s, it became 831.8 per year.
(Mangla and Haress, 2011).
Why travelers take commercial flights - Since commercial flights are the fastest mode of transporting medical patients, the healthcare institutions have no other choice to save their patients. Therefore, whether they are safe or not, the hospitals have to take chances to save their lives especially on emergency cases. For instance, here is a case of a senior female smoker who has to travel from Athens to Amsterdam as fast as possible to undergo further examination by cardiologists and pulmonologists. The patient has hypertension, severe osteoarthritis, and mild cardiac failure. After a few minutes from take-off, she started experiencing severe dyspnea, without chest pain, but requiring an immediate medical attention. After giving her oxygen, her medical symptoms improved slowly and she arrived at her destination in Amsterdam safely (Tsiligianni et al, 2012).
Psychological impact of accidents to travelers in commercial flights - While many people have a positive outlook in using commercial flights to travel, the others think that they are not safe. They fear the waves of frightening news of accidents on the air and many people dying. In Ukraine, the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 brought fear to many travelers around the world. The fatal incident killed a total of 304 persons aboard the aircraft. Recently, 48 persons died in a crash of TransAsia Airways Flight 222 in Taiwan. In another tragic incident, 116 persons died in Mali after Air Algerie Flight 5017 crashed. Next to this fateful incident is the loss of 239 passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. These fatal incidents are results of different circumstances, but if 700 airline passengers including the flight crew die in a span of 138 days, many air travelers would have second thoughts using commercial flights because of their global aviation safety risks. Therefore, is it true that the skies are becoming more dangerous than ever? Remember that 2014 is trending as the deadliest year in the history of aviation, and it created a psychological impact on the minds of the people (Tolan et al, 2014). With these incidents on hand, many travelers are now doubtful that commercial flights can provide safety for them.
Conclusion: Commercial flights are safe for travelers because of continuous research and improvement in their services that comply with the FAA standards. Despite the wave of air crashes in the past few years, commercial flights are here to stay not only because there is no other option to travel quickly, but because the airlines are doing their jobs to follow the safety policies of the Federal Aviation Administration. For every accident or incident on the skies, the airlines review their guidelines and sets of standards and improve them to prevent such things to happen again in the future. Travelers have reasons to fear the series of accidents and incidents that happened in the past few years. The downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 by a Russian missile resulting to the death of 304 people on board created a psychological impact on the minds of the travelers worldwide. Another horrible incident is the loss of Malaysia Airlines MH370 carrying 239 people aboard (Mangla and Haress, 2011). The writer of this paper believes that there is still a wide room for improvement in operating commercial airlines focusing on the aircraft maintenance, human error in flying, and passing through territorial limits, especially in war-zone areas. This writer also believes that the airlines should not cut their budgets on safety operations during economic depression, such as increased cost of fuels, inflation, and devaluation of currency. A better option for this scenario is to lessen the number of flights each day. This way, the airlines can have quality flights with full security and safety application rather than having several flights with accompanying risks. In general however, commercial flights are safer than other kinds of transportation as explained on this paper. They are also the fastest mode of transportation in carrying medical patients with chronic diseases that need immediate treatment in another country.
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