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Airplane near-misses versus airplane accidents

There are a lot of near-misses (or, more accurately, near-hits) when it comes to airplane crashes. There are certainly enough to scare anyone who is already on the edge when it comes to flying.

Recently, here in Texas, at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, two United Airlines jets came closer than anyone on the planes would want to know about. They passed each other with less than a mile’s distance and within a 400-foot altitude range.

Meanwhile, at Newark Liberty International Airport, a United Boeing 737 and a commuter plane recently barely missed colliding on the runway. One was landing as another was taxiing.

Statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration show that near-misses have increased from 2011 to 2012. For fiscal year 2011, 1,895 near-misses were reported, compared to fiscal year 2012, which showed 4,394 near-misses. Out of the 4,394, however, there were only 41 “high-risk” incidents. Actual accident statistics were not provided, but it appears this number would be low when compared with the “near-accidents” that were avoided.

Some of these incidents are not reported. One man claimed he was in a close situation on a flight from Hawaii to California when his plane almost had a head-on collision with another one. He talks about a coffee pot falling to the floor and people screaming as tray tables rattled. The incident was not reported for at least two weeks.

The advantages of flying will probably continue to outweigh most people’s fear of flying, and the FAA will continue to do its best to ensure that the airways are safe. When an actual accident or a close call occurs, it is the agency’s job to investigate and file any FAA negligence claims so the problems can be fixed and eliminated. However, those who are involved in airplane crashes, or their surviving family members, have every right to seek justice through civil actions.

Source: Discovery News, “Airplane Near-Misses: How Often Do They Happen?” Eric Niiler, May. 27, 2014

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