In the recent weeks, our thoughts have been with innocent victims of the German Wings aircraft disaster in March 2015. The plane crashed in the French Alps not because the airline failed to maintain the aircraft or because the crew operating the flight failed to observe its duties. The existing knowledge shows that it happened because a mentally unstable co-pilot decided to commit a suicide. Whether the act was planned or spontaneous is immaterial.
Land or air
The following statement won't surprise many. Flying is the safest way of transport. Worldwide statistics show that we undertake much greater risks while getting into our cars and on busses. Yet, air accidents receive most publicity. Plane disasters carry the biggest headlines due to the one-time volume of victims.
However, World Health Organisation's research sadly concludes that some 18 people per 100,000 inhabitants die year in, year out in road accidents worldwide. No mercy is given to those causing accidents or their fellow drivers or those pedestrians that coincidently happened to be nearby. One's life expectancy increases dramatically when air travel is used to move between places. The world statistics show that around 0.013 per 100,000 of air passenger lives end on board of aircraft.
The air industry is hugely regulated and closely scrutinised. And for the right reasons benefiting all, the main focus is on passenger safety. Aircraft manufactures and airlines have maintenance methods and procedures in place ensuring that planes get from A to B safely. Each type of aircraft has a specific maintenance manual covering every part used of so exhaustive nature, that Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace would only stand as a short and easy story next to it. Airlines employ and educate engineers so these manuals are understood and implemented. On top of that, records in form of aircraft log books and technical books covering every minute of checks, faults, repairs and flight events are kept by each airline. And in case of any doubt, we have civil aviation authorities regulating safety levels within the air industry.
Yes of course, planes break and this causes delays and cancellations. However, the systems in place work well enough so those faulty machines remain grounded when required and passengers are not put in undue risk.
Despite all the rarity of airline disasters, accidents do happen. But what are the reasons? Poor maintenance certainly causes a degree of disasters but this mainly applies countries where safety standards are not as stringent as they are in the EU or the USA. The Western world looks after its aircraft well, yet they still crash on occasions.
World of humans
So what we should really be concerned with is a human error. And unfortunately, no matter what psychological tests and level of education we give to our pilots, bus, taxi or train drivers, doctors or other people who at some point hold our lives at mercy, we are still people with our individual neurosis, happiness and depressions. This is part of our nature and society. And as long as humans remain vulnerable and unstable individuals, accidents will be happening.