Planes Are Aging, But U.S. Air Travel Has A Strong Safety Record

Recent high profile emergency landings notwithstanding, crashes and fatalities are still extremely rare among U.S. licensed commercial airlines.

By Alexandra HartMay 9, 2018 7:16 am,

On Sunday, the third airline flight in as many weeks diverted because of a broken window. This time, a JetBlue flight from Puerto Rico to Florida made an emergency landing. Two previous incidents involved Southwest Airlines 737s.

James Simmons says that aging fleets could be responsible for the recent incidents. Simmons is professor of aviation and aerospace science at Metropolitan State University in Denver. He says the average age of a Southwest Airlines 737 is 10 years old.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations require individual parts to be serviced or changed out, based on number of hours in operation, but there are no FAA regulations about the maximum lifespan of an older airplane or engine.

Despite the recent Southwest Airlines disaster in which one passenger was killed, Simmons says that air travel in the U.S. is safer than ever.

“That fatality, tragic as it was,” he says, “was the first passenger death since 2009, in all the licensed airlines in the United States.”

He says that’s a remarkable safety record.

“Southwest operates about 4,000 flights a day, with a fleet of over 700 airplanes,” Simmons says. “In a fleet that large, with as many take offs and landings as they do, they use their airplanes pretty hard. But I have no qualms about flying on Southwest.”

Written by Christopher De Los Santos.