The airplane you fly may increase the chance of a fatal accident by 9000%. In this article, you will discover who, between Boeing, Airbus, ATR, Bombardier, Embraer, and Sukhoi, make the safest airplane and is the safest manufacturer. But before, some context.
I used to work for airlines in Revenue Management. Hundreds of analysts, managers, and strategists debated commercial strategies, route planning, and flight scheduling. From ticket prices to the economics of airplanes, we discussed a lot of things there.
But one thing we rarely debated: airplane safety.
Not only because this was not our field (there are entire areas dedicated to that), but also because to travel by plane is safe.
Very safe. It is more likely that a person dies struck by a lightning or falls from bed during sleep than in an airplane crash.
Still, this minor danger is not evenly spread. There are safe, very safe planes, and the safest airplane. In this article, I will tell you which is the safest to fly.
Before you read this, I want to tell you that by no means I am saying that any of the companies below make bad planes. Even the poorest of these six manufacturers is safe enough that you should worry about food poisoning at an airport bar more than an airline catastrophe.
Since I already mentioned that we will rank six different aircraft makers according to safety, here is the list of them.
The airplane manufacturers analyzed
The data used for our ranking is from the Aviation Safety Network (ANS), a private initiative started in 1996. Multiple kinds of planes, from airliners to military transport planes to corporate jets, are registered. The network keeps track of safety problems with all these machines. Over 20,300 incidents, hijackings, and accidents are in the ASN Safety Database. Some data is also from the page Turbli.com, including the statistics from the six aircraft makers, which are:
- Airbus: It is the second-largest manufacturer of commercial planes in the world. The owners are the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), from Germany, France, and Spain, with an 80 percent stake, and BAE Systems, from the United Kingdom, with a 20% share. Its first product, the A300, was put into service in 1974.
- Boeing: Created in the USA, it is the world’s biggest aerospace company. William E. Boeing (1881–1956) started in 1916 as Aero Products Company and then, in the late 1920s, it became part of the United Aircraft and Transportation Corporation. It made the Boeing 707, the first American jetliner,
- Embraer: a multinational company based in Brazil making planes for commercial, executive, defense, and agricultural use. The company has made over 8,000 planes since 1969.
- Bombardier: a Canadian company that makes planes, rail transportation equipment, and motorized consumer products. During the 1980s, the company entered the aerospace business.
- ATR: Avionics de Transport Regional or Aerei da Transporto Regionale is a joint venture between France and Italy started in 1981. Its major products are the ATR 42 and ATR 72 planes.
- Sukhoi: a Russian holding, manufacturing both civilian and military aircraft. The company is the biggest exporter of Russian planes in the world.
What is the safest airplane model?
There are enormous differences in how many units of the airplanes analyzed sold. Some models, like the Airbus A320 or the Boeing 737, sold over 15 thousand planes each. On the other side, less than 250 A380 (the largest passenger airplane in the world) were delivered to this date.
For this reason, a simple comparison of accident numbers between the different models (and manufacturers) would be extremely unfair. Since there are 60X more A320 or B737 flying than A380, it is obvious that they are involved in more accidents.
To remove the difference in sales numbers, we will use a ratio elaborated by Turbli: the fatal accidents rate per thousand years of service time.
Many models never had a single accident, therefore they have a 0 score in this ratio. Still, most of them had less than 350 hundred sales. One exception is the Airbus 340. Turbli also made a list of the best airplanes during turbulences and the A340 had the 2nd best place. Still, “only” 380 airplanes of this model have been made so far. So, in terms of statistics, it hasn’t had to deal with as many dangerous situations as other aircraft.
When we consider airplanes with large sales (more than a thousand), the Embraer ERJ family 130, 140, and 145 is the pick for the title of the safest plane. With more than 1200 models built, just like the A340, it was never involved in an accident with fatalities.
There were a few accidents involving Embraer ERJ jets, like one that slid off the runway during a snowstorm at Chicago O’Hare Airport, but never a single fatal victim. Therefore, a clear champion in the question of the safest airplane.
What is the safest aircraft manufacturer?
When comparing the various manufacturers, the Brazilian-based Embraer comes out on top with only 0.01 fatal incidents per thousand years of service duration. The Franco-Italian company ATR has a risk that is 50 times higher, while the Russian Sukhoi has 90 times the risk of Embraer, making them the least safe in our study.
The differences between Airbus, Boeing, and Bombardier are minor, all of them being more dangerous than Embraer but far safer than ATR or Sukhoi.
The victory of Embraer in this research may be quite surprising. It is a common belief that larger jets should be safer than smaller planes, therefore most would expect Boeing and Airbus to lead the ranking while ATR, Sukhoi, and Embraer should take the last spots.
But that is not what happened.
Independent of the reason, the Brazilian manufacturer, despite fabricating smaller jets, managed to make them safer than the larger machines from both Boeing and Airbus.
Something that the engineers from the ITA (Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica, the military institution that “supplies” many of the company’s technicians) should be proud about.
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Levi Borba is the CEO of expatriateconsultancy.com, creator of the channel Small Business Hacks, and best-selling author. Subscribe to my articles (for free) and receive (also for free) the ebook “The Blueprint for First-Time Business Owners”.