Panic Surrounds Recent Boeing and Airbus Incidents, Fliers Left Wondering if It’s Safe to Fly

By: Alex Trent | Last updated: Mar 21, 2024

A recent string of accidents from Boeing and Airbus planes has made some worried about choosing airplanes as their traveling preference in the future. However, despite this recent string of incidents, experts are reminding people that statistics show air travel is at one of its safest points in history.

It can be easy to be consumed by fear of something going wrong while high in the sky, but as a method of travel, airplanes consistently beat out their competition.

Boeing Decompression Incident

One airplane incident making news is when an Alaska Airlines Boeing craft had a panel blow-off that forced an emergency landing.

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The front view of a plane landing after a flight.

Source: John McArthur/Unsplash

It was reportedly caused by a faulty door plug that forced an uncontrolled decompression and a massive hole to rip open in the plane. Some injuries were reported, but there were no fatalities among the passengers or crew.

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Federal Investigation

In response to recent events, the Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation over the blowout that left a hole in a Boeing plane. 

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A conference for the Department of Justice in 2023.

Source: Source: DHSgov/Wikimedia

Alaska Airlines put out a statement downplaying the investigation as normal. “In an event like this, it’s normal for the DOJ to be conducting an investigation. We are fully cooperating and do not believe we are a target of the investigation.”

Airbus Collision

A January Airbus collision in Japan is another incident that has people pausing before taking a flight. According to an Airbus statement, an A350 plane collided with a DHC-9 aircraft while landing in Haneda.

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An Airbus A350 model airplane.

Source: Duch.seb/Wikimedia

Authorities said that five of the six people on board the DHC-9 had died. However, all the 367 passengers and 12 crew members of the Airbus managed to evacuate from the craft safely.

United Airlines Accident

On March 8th, a United Airlines Boeing plane rolled off the runway at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. This plane exited the runway gate and rolled right into the grass.

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An airplane sitting at the terminal.

Source: Kevin Bosc/Unsplash

While this incident sounds scary, none of the passengers or crew were injured in the incident. A taxi took them back to the terminal and they continued on their way.

Flames Shooting Out of Engine

Another United Airlines incident happened when a plane suffered a compressor stall that led to the airplane shooting flames out of the engine. While the sight of bright orange flames terrified passengers, no one was injured and the engine itself didn’t catch fire.

Instruments seen in the cockpit of an airplane.

Source: Dan Lohmar/Unsplash

The plane made a successful emergency landing and the actual flames, while frightening, didn’t actually cause the plane any real danger. Grounding the plane after an incident like this is standard procedure and done out of an abundance of caution.

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Low Airplane Death Risk

According to Aviation Safety data, the chance of dying from airplane travel is still extremely low. Between 2018 and 2022, an airplane passenger only had a 1 in 13.4 million chance of dying from a scheduled flight. Just ten years prior, the chance was 1 in 7.9 million.

An airplane is seen flying over city buildings.

Source: Domagoj Cosic/Unsplash

Between 1968 to 1977, the chance was 1 in 350,000. As one can see, the mortality chance of traveling on an airplane is exceedingly low and continuing to get lower.

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US Airliners Are the World’s Safest

If you are a US traveler, you might be surprised to learn that US airlines are the safest in the world. In fact, the airliners in the industry are so safe, that experts have difficulty rating them by safety.

An open door of an airplane displaying a safety procedure.

Source: Sintegrity/Wikimedia

Airplane deaths are a rare event. A 2018 accident on a Southwest Airlines flight was the first fatality in the company’s 47-year history at the time.

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Fewest Deaths on Record

When looking at the rest of the world, 2023 only had six recorded commercial airplane accidents that had fatal consequences globally.

The NTSB investigates a Boeing plane.

Source: NTSBgov/Wikimedia

These accidents resulted in 115 deaths, which experts say is the fewest number on record. In recent years, airplane accidents that result in injuries or death have been consistently decreasing, which some may find surprising.

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Business As Usual

Although airplane accidents make headlines and capture people’s attention, there is actually nothing unusual about these types of incidents.

An airplane flies off into the sunset.

Source: Etienne Jong/Unsplash

Pilot Jeff Guzetti, president of Guzetti Avaation Risk Discovery LLC, said, “There’s not anything unusual about the recent spate of incidents — these kinds of things happen every day in the industry.”

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Car Accident Statistics

When comparing the accident statistics for airplanes and automobiles, the data is clear. In the first half of 2023, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates there were over 19,000 fatalities from motor vehicle crashes in the United States.

The front end of a car is destroyed after a collision accident.

Source: Michael Jin/Unsplash

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States for people aged between 1 and 54, according to the CDC.

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Why the Panic?

Given the data shows that airplane travel is remarkably safe, why are people panicking over this string of incidents? After all, car accident injuries and fatalities happen every day, yet people are still willing to ride in and drive their cars.

Passengers sit in their seats and hear an explanation from a flight attendant.

Source: Suhyeon Choi/Unsplash

The answer is that airplanes capture our imagination in a different way and that a minor problem on an airplane is felt more viscerally. Experts hope people remain vigilant about airplane travel but also don’t get swept up in the fear of news headlines.

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