The number of people tragically killed in plane crash deaths skyrocketed in 2018, according to new analysis.

There were less than 60 deaths attributed to airline crashes in 2017.  In 2018, there were more than 560 deaths stemming from airline crashes – A 900% increase.

Aircraft fatalities have dipped since 2018.  However, about three-quarters of the fatalities in 2019 occurred on March 10, 2019, when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed, killing all 157 people on board, the second 737 MAX crash within six months.

The Federal Aviation Administration analyzed the Ethiopian crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8.  As reported by The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. regulators decided to allow Boeing Co. ’s 737 MAX jet to keep flying after its first fatal crash last fall even after their own analysis indicated it could become one of the most accident-prone airliners in decades without design changes.

The November 2018 internal Federal Aviation Administration analysis, released during a House committee hearing Wednesday, reveals that without agency intervention, the MAX could have averaged one fatal crash about every two or three years. That amounts to a substantially greater safety risk than either Boeing or the agency indicated publicly at the time.

The assessment, which came the month after a Lion Air crash in Indonesia, raises new questions about the FAA’s decision-making in the wake of that disaster, along with what turned out to be faulty agency assumptions on ways to alleviate hazards.

In the wake of the analysis, the FAA took steps to put short-term and permanent measures in place to combat hazards, but Wednesday’s hearing started off with challenges to some of those decisions.

“Despite its own calculations, the FAA rolled the dice on the safety of the traveling public and let the 737 MAX continue to fly,“ said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

The FAA’s intervention proved inadequate after a second fatal MAX crash, in Ethiopia in March, led to the global grounding of the fleet and sparked an international controversy over the agency’s safety oversight.

The full WSJ article can be viewed here.

Following the second crash, the aircraft was pulled out of service to allow a thorough investigation into whether the plane itself was a factor in the crashes.  According to the Los Angeles Times, “federal safety officials estimated there could be 15 more fatal crashes of the [Boeing 737 Max] if Boeing didn’t fix a crucial automated flight-control system.”

On December 10, 2019, en route from Victoria to Houston, a pilot was of a small cargo airplane was killed.  According to KHOU Houston, the plane had been contracted to carry UPS packages.

The cause of the plane crash is currently under investigation and our experienced airplane accident lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP will provide updates as they become available.

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