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Is flying really safer now than it was just 10 years ago?

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Aviation safety has made great strides in the last 10 years. In fact, the last fatal commercial airplane crash here in the United States took place in 2009. In February of that year, Continental Airlines flight 3407, operated by Colgan Air (now defunct), crashed into a neighborhood and killed 49 on board the aircraft. An individual on the ground also perished.

The plane fell from the sky because it lost speed and stalled. Safety officials believe that the accident resulted from pilot error due to a lack of training and fatigue. This prompted changes that officials say made the skies even safer as evidenced by the lack of fatal plane crashes in the country.

Does that mean you are safe aboard an airplane?

Perhaps more than you used to be. The flight training hours for pilots increased to 1,500 hours from the pre-crash level of only 250 hours. Pilots and co-pilots must also get more rest before flying. Apparently, the pilot on that fateful flight had failed flight tests, and the first officer had been across the country the night before the flight. Now that pilots receive more rest and training, this reduces the danger of traveling by air.

However, other issues continue to threaten the safety of the skies. Parts still fall off planes, maintenance issues may not get resolved and other mishaps may occur during flights. Planes may not crash, but there have been deaths since 2009. In addition, people do suffer injuries while on board. Even though the numbers look better for commercial airlines, accidents still happen.

Small charter and private aircraft crashes

Private aviation has improved its safety record as well, but remains just as vulnerable to accidents as commercial airlines -- if not more so. Defective airplane parts, poor maintenance, poor design and defective components all threaten the safety of travelers. Moreover, even though pilots receive more training and mandatory rest, that doesn't mean they don't continue to make mistakes. Smaller craft tend to crash more often than commercial airlines but usually for the same reasons.

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