Is The Boeing 777 Safe? Despite MH370's Disappearance, The Aircraft's Safety Record Is Still Impressive
In March 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane with 293 onboard was declared missing, disappearing from radar around Kuala Lumpur. As of Thursday, experts are now saying the debris found on Reunion Island yesterday almost certainly matches those of a Boeing 777, leading many to believe these recovered parts belong to the lost MH370. More than a year later, many are now questioning how safe the Boeing 777 is.
In its 19-year history, the 777 has only seen five accidents with hull loss, three of which resulted in deaths. Boeing identifies the 777, the first jetliner to be designed using 3-D graphics, as "the widest, most spacious airline in its class and includes improvements in airfoil technology, flight deck design, passenger comfort and interior flexibility." But Boeing isn't alone in extolling the virtues of the 777. Aviation analysts overwhelmingly consider 777s among the world's safest airliners. "This is the best international plane every built yet — it's got an impeccable track record after 20 years and over 1,200 deliveries. It's typically used on international routes, and it's established a new standard for international safety," Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis with the Teal Group in Virginia, told USA Today earlier this year. Fear Of Flying ranks the 777 at No. 2 in terms of airliner safety, just below the Airbus 340.
George Hamlin of Hamlin Transportation Consulting added the 777 is a "superb airplane with an outstanding record ... but like all civilian airlines, it's no match for a missile. It has no defense mechanism." Following Hamlin's logic, the Boeing 777 could hardly be blamed for MH370's mysterious disappearance if it was attacked and shot down.
MH370 wasn't the first Boeing 777 in recent history to experience some problems. However, Robert Mann, an aviation consultant based in New York, defended the plane's track record as "very strong" on Thursday, according to USA Today. Mann reasoned that known mishaps involving the Boeing 777 can all be attributed to different factors irrelevant to the plane model. For example, the January 2008 crash landing of British Airways Flight 38 is attributed to ice crystals in the fuel. The British Airways plane missed the runway and resulted in 47 injuries, but no deaths.
In July 2013, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed over the San Francisco airport, killing three passengers. Mann stated the National Transportation Safety Board's report on the incident ultimately cited fault with the plane's cockpit crew, as well as pilot mismanagement just before the plane's descent. "Inadequate pilot training and monitoring" were also cited as causes for the crash, although the board also listed the "complexities of the Boeing 777's auto-throttle" as a factor.
No airplane is 100 percent safe from the occasional technical mishap, and even in such cases, accidents can never be solely attributed to the model of the airplane. There's always plenty of factors that contribute to every plane crash. While we may never know what mysterious circumstances befell MH370, given Boeing 777's strong track record, we certainly can't fault any accident entirely to the airplane model.
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