According to new estimates, the total costs associated with insurance claims arising from airplane accidents has dropped to levels not seen since 1991, as the number of severe injuries and deaths associated with plane crashes worldwide have continued to decline.
The airline advisory firm Ascend indicates that airplane accident insurance claims will drop below $1 billion in 2012, according to a recent article published by Bloomberg news.
Total insurance claims for damages to airplanes and costs to settle or resolve plane accident lawsuits was more than $1.2 billion in 2011, but is expected to fall more than $300 million in 2012, making the total claims about half the amount of premiums that were written during the period.
Western-built jets suffered only 0.19 “hull loss” accidents per million flights in 2012, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in a statement released in December, which was also referenced in the Bloomberg report. This is the safest year on record.
The safest carriers on record were North Asian and North American airline carriers with the lowest accident rates, according to the IATA.
Airplane travel is now twice as safe as it was 15 years ago, according to Ascend, as fatal airline accident rates have been steadily improving. Bloomberg News reports that the advisory firm believes premium income will continue to fall in 2013.
Over the past three years, there have been no fatal airplane accidents in the United States involving commercial aircraft. The only major incident during that time was an issue with a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737, where a hole ruptured in the fuselage at 36,000 feet, causing the cabin to lose pressure after take off from Phoenix Sky Harbor. The plan was able to land safely at Yuma International Airport, with all 118 people aboard uninjured.
The last plane crash in the United States that resulted in fatalities was a Continental accident in Buffalo on February 12, 2009, involving a flight operated by Colgan Air. All 49 people onboard the flight were killed, plus one person on the ground, when the wings iced up shortly before landing, causing the plane to lose lift, stall and crash into a house.
At a National Transportation Safety Board hearing in May 2009, it was revealed that the pilot of the flight failed five FAA “check ride” tests prior to the accident, which are designed to make sure pilots are competent in case of an emergency. It was suggested that the pilot may not have been adequately trained to respond to the emergency situation and crew fatigue was also suspected as a possible factor in the accident.
A number of wrongful death lawsuits over the plane crash were filed after the tragedy, alleging negligence on behalf of the pilots and the airlines.