One day aviation’s luck will run out…

The Ryanair incident today in Rome, when a particularly bad bird strike nearly brought down a Boeing 737, is the latest in a series of high profile near misses this year to major airlines. There was the freezing fuel crash that so nearly resulted in disaster at Heathrow when a 777 landed just yards short of the runway when all the engines failed.  Had it crashed just a hundred yards further back, disaster would have ensued.

 Then there was the Qantas 747 which developed a massive hole in the fuselage and again it was only luck that avoided a disaster.  In fact, there has not been a fatal accident to a major airline since a United Airlines Airbus went down in New York soon after 9/11. I happened to be in New York at the time and of course they thought it was terrorism, but it turned out to be a pilot error.

Of course there have been numerous disasters in Russia and Africa, and a few charter planes have gone down, but the major western airlines have escaped any fatalities. One day this remarkable run will end. If an accident happens to an airline like British Airways or Lufthansa, then the company will probably not suffer too badly. But if it is Easyjet or Ryanair, there are bound to be questions, however unfair, over whether budget airlines are as safe as conventional ones. If that were to happen in a downturn, the company might go under. In a way, that is reassuring, as it suggests that budget airlines must take exceptional care over safety. But even Michael O’Leary is having a bad night tonight.

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