The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

July 9, 2013

Safety advances boost plane crash survival odds

NEW YORK — Passengers in plane crashes today, such as the one in San Francisco involving Asiana Airlines Flight 214, are more likely to survive than in past disasters.

Saturday’s crash was the latest where a big commercial airliner was destroyed but most passengers escaped with their lives. There were plenty of cuts, bruises and broken bones — and some more severe injuries — but only two of the 307 passengers and crew onboard died.

Planes now are structurally sounder. In the cabin, stronger seats are less likely to move and crush passengers. Seat cushions and carpeting are fire retardant and doors are easier to open. Those improvements allow people to exit the plane more quickly.

The nature of crashes has also changed. Improvements in cockpit technology mean that planes rarely crash into mountains or each other — accidents that are much more deadly.

“Crashes are definitely more survivable today than they were a few decades ago,” said Kevin Hiatt, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, an industry-backed nonprofit group aimed at improving air safety. “We’ve learned from the past incidents about what can be improved.”

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the Asiana crash. But whatever the reason, it reflects the trend of fewer people dying in plane accidents.

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