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A spirit that is not afraid

Air Travel Still Flying Higher in Safety Records

From the crash of the Air France flight over the Atlantic, to a football sized hole found in the fuselage of a Southwest Airlines flight, many people are wondering how safe airplanes are.

"I think it's definitely scary when you hear things like that, " said Caroline Taylor a junior in communications. "It makes me not want to travel in a plane for a while."

However, experts are sure that, while airplanes may have a fair share of problems, they are still a lot safer than other forms of transportation.

"With airplanes, the probability of an accident is much lower than if you were to compare them to cars," said Randy Johnson a professor in aviation and supply chain management. "When you're talking about safety it's more likely you will arrive at your destination with a lower risk in an airplane."

Airplanes are regularly given different types of inspections.

"Whenever something happens, like the incident with the hole in the Southwest flight, the planes are going to be looked at a little bit closer than usual," said Bill Hindi an employee with Montgomery Aviation Maintenance. "The same aircrafts of that age and with the same amount of cycles will be investigated."

Johnson said that when they find something wrong in one plane, they will inspect all of the other aircrafts in an airline to look for fatigue, stress or disrepair.

After the incident with the Southwest flight, all 181 identical jets were inspected overnight, according to the MSNBC Web site.

Errors, such as this one, do not mean that all airplanes are unsafe.

"Maintenance inspections are required by regulation," Johnson said. "Airlines use the system periodically. They are inspected depending on what kinds of issues they are looking for at the time."

Some components are required to be inspected every two years, while others are inspected on hourly intervals, Johnson said. It just depends on the section of the plane.

"There is a certain point when there is a major inspection where the whole aircraft is taken apart," Hindi said. "They completely remove the interior."

Hindi said the process takes several weeks and is expensive, but required.

According to the Consumer Warning Network Web site, based on the number of fatal events per million miles traveled by airlines in the United States, Southwest Airlines leads the list as the safest airline with no fatalities in its history.

"Southwest has gone the longest without a major incident," Hindi said. "Overall, their record, as far as fatalities go, is the lowest."

According to a press release by the National Transportation Safety Board, airplane accidents for the past year have shown a mixed picture. The real problem seems to have been with on-demand flight operations including air medical, air taxi and air tour flights. There were 56 accidents involving these flights in 2008, resulting in the deaths of 66 people, the highest number of fatalities for this type of flight since 2000.

However, the accident rate for commercial carriers was significantly lower. Commercial flights carried 753 million passengers on more than 10.8 million flights without fatalities, according to the NTSB press release.

Despite these statistics, both good and bad, Johnson said he would still choose to travel by airplane.

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"Airplanes win over cars," Johnson said. "Hands down. They are definitely safer."

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