Another airplane crash at LA airport is making Californians pay attention. A Cessna 182 crashed in a residential neighborhood near Whiteman Airport, killing the pilot and starting a fire in the community. This is just one example, a few months earlier a pilot took off from the same airport and crashed into railroad tracks. Police were able to get the pilot out second before an oncoming train crashed into the wreckage.
There is no doubt that flying is a relatively safe way to travel. Although less likely to get into an accident flying versus driving a vehicle, these recent examples highlight the fact that these accidents still happen. Unfortunately, when aviation accidents do happen, they can be catastrophic.
But why do these planes crash? If we know flight is relatively safe, what causes the problems that lead to these catastrophic accidents?
What are common causes for aviation accidents?
According to the International Air Transport Association’s Safety Report, human error is the primary cause of accidents. Just over 20% of accidents are the result of maintenance issues and almost 80% due to human error. These human errors are not just the fault of the pilot. Mistakes by flight crew, air traffic controllers and mechanics can also result in an aviation accident.
Another common cause involves mechanical issues. Experts have voiced concern about the possibility for this cause of aviation accident to increase in the near future as the current planes that make up much of the commercial fleet age. Mechanical issues mostly involve the airplane’s engine. Power loss due to an engine issue happened 117 times in 2018 alone. These engine issues often happen shortly after the plane received major mechanical work.
Are certain parts of the flight more dangerous than others?
The most dangerous part of the flight is generally takeoff. Accidents during takeoff are less common than those during landing, but far more fatal. These often result from a loss of control or engine stall.
Landing accidents, though generally not fatal, account for almost 50% of pilot-related accidents. These can include the plane leaving the designated runway, an engine stall, or a hard landing. Data also shows that the rate of landing accidents has increased in recent years. Again, though not often fatal it is important to remember that these accidents can still result in serious injuries for passengers.
The descent and approach are also a bit more dangerous and can result in engine stall or spin scenarios.
Are aviation experts doing anything to reduce the risk of these accidents?
There are benefits to training, and a call for an increase and refresh education on approach, landing and takeoff. Regular maintenance to the aircraft by qualified mechanics also helps to reduce the risk of issues.