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Air travel a leap of faith for passengers

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 25, 2014 at 2:33 am •  Published: July 25, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Airline travel requires passengers to make a leap of faith, entrusting their lives to pilots, airlines, air traffic controllers and others who regulate air travel.

Even after a week of multiple tragedies in worldwide aviation, "There isn't much that we can do to manipulate how we fly as passengers. But we also shouldn't worry too much," says Phil Derner, founder of the aviation enthusiast website NYC Aviation.

With one passenger plane being shot out of the sky and two crashing during storms, aviation experts said there was no pattern suggesting a huge gap in airline safety measures.

"One of 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," said Jon Beatty, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, an airline industry-supported nonprofit in Alexandria, Virginia, that promotes global aviation safety.

Less than 1 in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident that damaged a plane beyond repair, according to the International Air Transport Association. The statistic includes accidents involving cargo and charter airlines in its data as well as scheduled passenger airline flights. This week's aviation disasters have the potential to push airline fatalities this year to over 700 deaths — the most since 2010. And 2014 is still barely half over.

The misfortunes began July 18 when Malaysia Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine with 298 people on board. It's still uncertain who fired the missile that destroyed the plane, but Ukrainian officials have blamed ethnic Russian rebels, and U.S. officials have pointed to circumstantial evidence that suggests that may be the case.

Global aviation leaders will meet in Montreal next week to initiate discussions on a plan to address safety and security issues raised by the shoot-down of the Malaysia Airlines jet, an aviation official said late Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly by name.

The shoot-down doubled Malaysia Airlines' losses this year. The mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 with 239 people on board in March combined with the destruction of Flight 17 amount to more than twice the total global airline fatalities in all of last year, which was the industry's safest year on record. Ascend, a global aviation industry consulting firm headquartered in London, counts 163 fatalities in 2013 involving passenger-carrying airliners with 14 seats or more.

On Wednesday, a TransAsia Airways plane crashed in Taiwan in stormy weather trailing a typhoon, killing 48 passengers, injuring 10 passengers and crew, and injuring five more people on the ground.

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