French Defense Minister/AP
A French army air crewman patrols the presumed site of the crash of a missing Air France

Air France Jet Disappearance Renews Flight Safety Concerns

June 03, 2009 05:56 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
The disappearance of an Air France jetliner could be the worst commercial aviation disaster in years, and has some worried about airline safety.

Mystery Continues to Unfold

Flight 447 was carrying 228 passengers and was traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when it disappeared from radar on May 31, The New York Times reported. A severe thunderstorm was blamed for the presumed crash, but the plane's experienced pilot gave no indication of a problem, and the plane only "beamed out several signals that its electrical systems had malfunctioned."

In the days immediately following the crash, reports came in of wreckage in the Atlantic, noted by a three-mile stretch of debris and jet fuel markings nearly 750 miles from the coast of Recife, according to the Guardian.
Paul-Louis Arslanian, leader of the French accident investigation agency, told the media he was "not optimistic" that the plane's black boxes would be retrieved. Authorities remained mystified, particularly because "there were no signs of problems with Air France Flight 447 before takeoff," the Guardian reported.

Today, according to Bloomberg, a Brazilian ship has arrived at the scene to assess the debris. Investigation into the incident is being carried out in full force, as the last contact with the pilot was regarding "bad weather," Bloomberg reported. Preliminary findings will be published by the end of this month, and separate investigations are being led by "the French prosecutor's office to figure out who is responsible."

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Opinion & Analysis: Flight safety

While the crash has prompted concerns and set off peoples' nerves, according to LiveScience, "flying on a large commercial aircraft still remains one of the safest forms of transportation, and statistics suggest it has gotten even safer in recent years." Since 1989, the number of fatal accidents per 1 million departures has dropped from 1.4 to 0.2, LiveScience reported.

Bill Voss of the Flight Safety Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Va., told LiveScience there's been "a remarkable decrease in accidents globally" in the past decade.

Still, "experts say that although airlines are safer than ever, adopting the lessons from such disasters can be excruciatingly slow," The New York Times reported in February following the fatal crash of a Continental Connection turboprop near Buffalo, N.Y. The National Transportation Safety Board "can only make recommendations," which the FAA "sometimes takes years to respond to."

Related Topic: Plane crashes into New York's Hudson River

In January, US Airways Flight 1549 left New York's LaGuardia Airport for Charlotte, N.C., and crashed into the Hudson River. All on board were safely rescued.

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