USA Today reported earlier in the week that 2010 marked the third time in four years that there were no U.S. airline fatalities for the year. According to that same article, there were no airline fatalities in the entire industrialized world in 2010, an accomplishment lauded by air safety advocates and industry analysts alike.
But, depending on what classifies a “U.S. airline fatality”, 2010 was not actually fatality-free. The Independent Pilots Association was very quick to point out this week that UPS, the eighth largest airline in the U.S., lost two American pilots when Flight 6, a Boeing 747-400 flying from Dubai International Airport to Cologne Bonn Airport, crashed after it turned around to head back to Dubai International shortly after takeoff.
The flight wasn’t carrying commercial passengers but it was an American airline, being flown by American pilots, in an American-made Boeing 747 that was, surprisingly, only a few years old. It did not, however, happen on American soil meaning that there hasn’t been an airline fatality in the U.S. for almost two years.
The last commercial airline crash with fatalities to occur in the United States was Colgan Air Flight 3407 on February 12, 2009. 50 people died as a result of that flight including one on the ground. The National Transportation Safety Board faulted inadequate pilot training as the cause of the crash.
Despite the UPS crash, which shouldn’t be treated lightly considering that lives were lost, one thing does remain true: Airline safety in the west has consistently improved over the decade as advancements in technology continue to make air travel one of the safest forms of transportation around.