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Is Commercial Flight Safer Than Ever?

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People stand near collected debris at the crash site of an Ethiopia Airlines flight on March 11th, 2019.

Following a fatal Boing 737 crash in Ethiopia last Sunday that killed all 157 people on board a number of prominent politicians are asking questions about the state of airplane safety. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump tweeted that “airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly” and that a aircraft model that is “old and simpler is far better.” 

Trump‘s assertion in contradicted by data. According to research from the International Civil Aviation Organization, the rate of plane accidents is at an all-time low, with just 1.75 accidents per million departures in 2018—a decline of 4.7 accidents per million over the preceding 10 years. Similar data from the Aviation Safety Network has shown a steady decline in the rate of fatal airline accidents per million flights since 1977. However, data on the number of accidents per million over the last decade does not directly correlate with the number of airplane-accident fatalities, as certain crashes can create more fatalities than others. 

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