Factors related to passenger and crew survivability in aircraft accidents in the United States
There are two ways to reduce the number of victims in aircraft accidents. The first is to reduce the accident rate itself, and the second is to improve passenger and crew survivability in each accident. This essay focuses on the second factor because the accident rate has stabilized at a ratio of 2 to 3 accidents per one million departures since the 70s for airline operation, and 6 to 8 accident per one million hours for general aviation. Considering that the improvement of accident rates is stabilized, the largest return on safety efforts now may come from the second option. The purpose of this research is to find factors which affect passenger and crew survivability in aircraft accidents, and to suggest possible policies for survivability. I use in this research an accident database provided by National Transportation Safety Board which includes accident data since 1983. In my basic model, the dependent variable is the rate of fatally or seriously injured persons (RFS), and the independent variables are various factors which can affect the RFS, such as occurrence of fire or explosion, the degree of aircraft damage, the flight phase on which an accident occurred, lighting conditions, air temperature, the condition of the surface where the aircraft landed, the FAR Part number under which the aircraft was operated, and a dummy variable for accidents with multiple aircraft. I also add several variables in order to deal with database problems. I use left-and-right censored Tobit with robust standard errors in my calculation, and addressed usual econometric problems when present, such as multicollinearity. In my estimation, I find statistically significant effects of several factors on RFS. Among them, the factors that seem practically important are: explosion/fire on ground, airframe damage (destruction), the flight phases, lighting conditions, weather factors, and the difference in FAR parts. I also estimate the effect of independent variables for each of FAR operation categories and find factors which are significant only in a specific FAR category. For example, an in-flight fire or explosion increases the RFS significantly only in air carrier operations. Also, involvement of multiple airplanes increases the RFS significantly only in agricultural operations. The significance of these factors reflects the characteristics of the categories such as airplane type or operational characteristics. Finally, I discuss the policy implications of these results and points we have to consider in dealing with my results. We can think of several improvements in aircraft equipments and procedures which may prevent the occurrence of these factors or may reduce the negative effect of these factors. These improvements can increase the passenger and crew survivability in aircraft accidents and reduce victims.
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