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Jan 17, 2024, 1:37pm EST
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2023 was one of the safest years for flying, but Boeing’s woes persist

With insights from Simple Flying, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, and Semafor.

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An aerial photo shows China Southern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft at Boeing facilities at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo
REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo
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The News

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was unable to fly home from Davos after his Boeing 737 aircraft was deemed unsafe to fly due to an oxygen leak that could not be repaired, Bloomberg reported.

The incident is the latest in a string of safety concerns for Boeing, with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration grounding more than 100 of its 737 Max 9 aircraft following the midair blowout of a panel on an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5.

China this week said that it would delay the restart of shipments of Boeing 737 Max jets into the country. Boeing has not delivered any aircraft to China since 2019, when safety issues linked to its Max 8 planes grounded the aircraft globally.

Despite 2023 being the safest year for flying, Boeing’s safety compliance is now being probed by the FAA.

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2023 saw no major airline accidents except in Nepal

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Sources:  
Simple Flying, Semafor

Last year was the safest in the history of commercial aviation, industry publication Simple Flying noted earlier this month. No large turbofan-powered aircraft — used by planes like Boeing’s 777 — were involved in any major fatal accidents in 2023, the outlet noted. Only Yeti Airlines, based out of Nepal, had a serious incident involving more than 15 fatalities: A flight between Kathmandu and Pokhara crashed near Pokhara airport, killing all 72 passengers.

The number of safety incidents has fallen despite a rise in the number of flights, Simple Flying noted last year. Upgrades adopted by manufacturers mean air travel is always getting safer. An Air Japan flight which erupted in flames earlier this month passed the first real test of modern aircraft safety — all the passengers and crew onboard Airbus A350 were safely evacuated. Experts believe that the industry has learned from past mistakes, making safety measures and training more effective than ever.

But flying in Russia has becoming more dangerous

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Source:  
The Washington Post

While air travel is safer than ever, flying in Russia has become increasingly dangerous, The Washington Post reported, with airlines suffering major setbacks in the face of Western sanctions. Pilots are facing life-or-death decisions when their equipment fails, one aviation expert told the paper. Even before sanctions, “Russian air safety was a total disaster,” said Andrei Patrakov, a Russian aviation safety expert — and now, planes that are due for routine upgrades can’t get them. “You cannot extend the laws of physics,” he added. Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot was rated zero stars out of a possible seven in overall safety in 2023 by Airlineratings.com, which tracks global airline safety data.

US air travel is extremely safe, but near-misses are concerning

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Sources:  
Slate, The New York Times

When compared to the major air incidents of the 1990s, U.S. air travel safety has made a serious turnaround, Slate noted last August. U.S. commercial airlines haven’t seen a fatal crash in 14 years, an unprecedented record. But some pilots fear that airlines are operating on borrowed time: Hundreds of near-misses have been reported in recent months. “Every captain has stories. We’re asking too much of the system. It’s not a matter of if something happens, but when,” one industry insider told Slate. Air traffic controllers are understaffed and overworked, and only three of the 313 commercial airports in the U.S. met Federal Aviation Administration standards in 2023, a New York Times investigation found.

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