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ET had it right: Flying really is safer

Most of us have heard that most motor vehicle accidents occur close to home. The studies vary on the distance -- 1 mile, 10 miles, 50 miles -- but they all come to the same conclusion. Aside from being especially vigilant, there may be no way to change the results. Unless, of course, you choose never to go home again.

It turns out that aviation is the same way. According to the Global Aviation Safety Study 2014, it is more dangerous to be parked at the gate than it is to be in the sky. We have all experienced the delays for equipment damage or mechanic failures. The report, released by insurance company Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE, estimates that damage that occurs when planes are still at the airport, particularly on the ramp, sets the industry back about $10 billion every year.

The ramp or apron of an airport is the area where aircraft are parked loaded, refueled and boarded. It is the busiest part of the airport, with planes, ground vehicles and personnel crowded together, moving all the time, in different directions and regardless of weather conditions.

According to the report, 80 percent of ramp accidents are caused by "contact" between aircraft and ground-service equipment and vehicles. Things are bumping into each other all the time, it seems, and just outside the jetway.

One reason the ramp is a dangerous place, the report points out, is that employee turnover is fairly high. New workers are cycling onto the job all the time, and training is not always as thorough as it should be. This lack of training combined with poor communication among workers and between airplanes and ground crew results in frequent failures to follow accepted protocols.

So, sadly, much of the damage and many of the injuries are the result of human error.

It isn't just humans, though. We will get into some surprising risks in our next post.

Source: Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, "Global Aviation Safety Study 2014," December 2014

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