On any given day, more than 2 million Americans use an airport and are airborne on commercial flights in the skies of the United States. Thousands of additional citizens are flying in private and/or corporate aircraft as well as other “public use” aircraft such as helicopters. Add together all of the flights worldwide, and you are looking at approximately 3 million people using airports on any given day.
Generally, flying is very safe and the probability of arriving at one’s destination routinely is very high. However, flying is very unforgiving and the occasional airport accident or incident due to human or technical error does occur.
When safety protections break down, they do so with varying intensity. Not all airport events are fatal and, indeed, more non-fatal airport accidents do occur. This is the reason why it is important to also distinguish between an aviation accident and an airport incident.
An aviation accident is the most serious and may be defined as such if at least one person is killed or hospitalized for longer than 24 hours and/or the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged. Thus, it is possible to have an aviation accident in which no people are seriously injured but the aircraft is lost as was the case early in 2008 with the loss of a British Airways B777 at Heathrow Airport.
Other airport mishaps occur in which people are not hurt and the aircraft is not damaged or has only received minor damage. These events are known as incidents. Tracking them is important, and an incident may be described as “an accident that got lucky.” As such, incidents are indicators of the relative safety of air transportation as there might be 100 incidents which occur for every aviation accident. The study of incidents may help to reduce the risk of accidents.
It might be said that only a few feet or a few seconds make the difference between an incident and an accident. Consider airport runway incursions or near-misses between aircraft and ground vehicles at an airport – runway incursions or the loss of safe separation between aircraft in the airport environment occur on a daily basis. Indeed, the threat is so great that all manner of improved signage, lighting, and procedures has been adopted to reduce the risk. For example, new taxiways have been built to reduce the frequency with which aircraft must cross one runway to get to another.
Nolan Law Group is currently evaluating Airport Accident cases involving:
- Pilot error
- Bad weather
- Faulty or out-of date equipment
- Federal Aviation Administration airport regulations’ violations
- Negligence of flight service station employees
- Negligence of federal air traffic controllers
- Failure to fuel the aircraft
- Runway Construction