WASHINGTON – Nearly 300 passengers perish when their plane is shot out of the sky. Airlines suspend flights to Israel’s largest airport after rocket attacks. An airliner crashes during a storm, and yet another disappears.
Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory, a cluster of disasters spanning three continents.
Industry analysts and safety experts shake their heads at the seeming randomness of the tragedies, saying they can find no common themes. Nor do they think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe.
Less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident in which the plane was damaged beyond repair, according to the International Air Transport Association. That includes accidents involving cargo and charter airlines as well as scheduled passenger flights.
One of the things that makes me feel better when we look at these events is that if they all were the same type event or same root cause, then you would say there’s a systemic problem here, but each event is unique in its own way, said Jon Beatty, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation.
But Beatty said he also finds the disaster cluster a cold reminder that airline accidents are likely to increase because the industry is growing, especially in developing countries.
The misfortunes began July 18 when Malaysia Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine with 298 people on board.
On Wednesday, a TransAsia Airways plane crashed in Taiwan trailing a typhoon, killing 48 passengers, injuring 10 others and crew, and injuring five more people on the ground.
Thursday, an Air Algerie flight with 116 passengers and crew crashed during a rainstorm in Mali.
Together, the disasters have the potential to push airline fatalities this year to over 700 – the most since 2010. And 2014 is barely half over.
With three tragedies in such quick succession, many people will, understandably, be asking questions about aviation safety, Tony Tyler, director general of the International Air Transport Association, said in a statement. He sought to assure the public that despite the events of the past seven days, flying is safe.
Industry analyst Robert W. Mann Jr. said he doesn’t expect the recent events to deter travelers from flying.
They’re all tragic, but the global air travel consumer has a very short memory and it’s highly localized to their home markets where they fly, he said. The places where these things are happening, 99 percent of passengers never go to or fly to. ... This isn’t a headline issue for most people, and that’s why people continue to fly despite the headlines.