The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a safety report that examines issues relating to occupant survivability in accidents involving U. S. airlines. The report was derived from a previous Board safety study on emergency evacuation of commercial airplanes.
The Board reviewed accident of commercial airplanes operating under CFR Part 121 that occurred from January 1983 through December 2000. The data were collected from the Board's aviation accident database, accident reports, survival factors reports and autopsy records. During this period, the Safety Board investigated 568 accidents of U.S. air carriers involving over 53,000 airline occupants. In these accidents, 51,207 occupants survived whereas 2,280 occupants died, the Board noted. Furthermore, in 528 of the 568 accidents studied from 1983 to 2000, more than 80 percent of the occupants survived.
The Board quantified cause-of-death information for the most serious of the Part 121 accidents; that is, those involving fire, at least one serious injury or fatality, and either substantial aircraft damage or complete destruction. Furthermore, the Board found that in 12 of the 19 serious Part 121 accidents from 1983 through 2000 that were categorized as survivable, more than 80 percent of the occupants survived.
Fatal accidents such as TWA flight 800, ValuJet flight 592, and EgyptAir 990 receive extensive media coverage. Nonfatal accidents, however, often receive little coverage. As a result, the public may perceive that most air carrier accidents are not survivable. In fact, the Board's study shows that since 1983, more than 95% of the passengers survived.
A copy of the report will be available in several weeks on our website at www.ntsb.gov. Paper copies of the report, when available, can be purchased from the National Technical Information Service (800) 533-NTIS.