Planes: Which is Safer?


Commercial aviation is one of the safest means of transport available. Saying this to those who are afraid may not even have an effect, but it is a fact that this segment is one of the ones with the least fatal accidents in the world.

But is there a commercial plane that has never crashed? Is it possible to make a ranking of which are the safest aircraft?

fatal accidents

According to the Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents produced by Boeing (updated to 2020), almost all commercial jet aircraft models with more than one million takeoffs have suffered some type of fatal accident involving the total loss of aircraft. plane.

Within this cutout, only the following models did not record any fatal accidents of the type:

  • 717 (Boeing)
  • 787 (Boeing)
  • A340 (Airbus)
  • CRJ-700/900/1000 (Bombardier)

Among the jets with less than a million takeoffs without any fatalities are:

  • 747-8 (Boeing)
  • A220 (Airbus)
  • A320/321/319 Neo (Airbus)
  • A350 (Airbus)
  • A380 (Airbus)

But this does not mean that the other models are worse, as several factors need to be taken into account. The analysis carried out by Boeing does not distinguish what was a design error or human error for accidents, for example, making it delicate to say that the design of an airplane is less safe than the other.

It is a fact that every aircraft goes through strict certification processes that aim to ensure that everyone is safe. They can take years and cost millions of dollars, but they are aimed at reducing further risk.

Higher accident rate in the past

The Boeing survey reveals that one of the planes with the most accidents, proportionately, is the company’s 737 Max. The two fatal accidents with the model happened even before the model completed 1 million take-offs, and the aircraft had to undergo a new certification process, this time, under a more attentive gaze from the public and from various bodies.

Apart from the Max, models manufactured earlier and which are out of operation had a higher proportion of fatal accidents, reaching 4.41 occurrences with total loss of the plane for every one million takeoffs. These were the 707/720, Comet, Concorde, CV-880-990, Mercure, Trident, and VC10 models.

According to data from the North American company’s survey, there were 2,082 accidents involving commercial jets between 1959 and 2020. Of this total, in 683 there were some fatalities, that is, 31% of accidents caused deaths.

If only the most serious occurrences are taken into account, where there was a total loss of the plane, which represents a more serious accident, there were 518 fatal cases.

The average of the decade between 2011 and 2020 showed that safety has evolved, and fewer and fewer fatal accidents have occurred. In the period, of the 320 accidents recorded, 39 involved some type of fatality, which represents 12% of the total, well below the average of the previous six decades.

It’s not simple to compare

Comparing one model to another to find out which one is safer, taking into account the number of accidents, does not usually work in practice.

In addition to the various factors that can cause a plane to crash, such as human error or design error, it is also necessary to consider the number of flights performed, how many of that model there are, among other factors.

For example, among the approximately 10 thousand copies of the Airbus A320/321/319/318 family of aircraft already delivered (except the neo version of the model), 13 fatal accidents with total loss were recorded. million takeoffs.

Another series of best-selling planes in history has also shown an evolution in safety over time. The Boeing 737, which already has more than 10,000 aircraft in operation, has been reducing the number of accidents over the years.

See the evolution of the model and its year of release:

  • 737-100/200 (1965) – 53 fatal accidents (0.91 per million takeoffs)
  • 737-300/400/500 (1984) – 19 fatal accidents (0.25 per million takeoffs)
  • 737-600/700/800/900 (1998) – 10 fatal accidents (0.09 per million takeoffs)
  • 737 Max (2017) – 2 fatal accidents (estimated 7.12 per million takeoffs; the model had not completed the one million takeoff cycle at the time it stopped flying due to the two accidents it was involved in)

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