Boeing 777 Has Admirable Safety Record

By Paul Riegler on 7 July 2013
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An American Airlines 777-300ER

An American Airlines 777-300ER

When an Air France Concorde crashed on July 25, 2000, the aircraft went from being arguably one of the safest in terms of passenger deaths-per-kilometers travelled to being one of the most unsafe. While the crash of an Asiana Airlines’ Boeing 777-200ER will without question impact the aircraft’s safety record, it was still the first fatal crash of Boeing’s mini-jumbo 777 and its third hull loss.

The crash on Saturday is only the second major accident in the 18 years that the plane has been in service. Until then, the 777 had been in an elite club: that of long-range jets which had never recorded a fatality.

Indeed, the 777 has long enjoyed a reputation of being one of the world’s safest aircraft. It is a long-range wide-body twin-engine jet airliner that was launched in 1995. It is the world’s largest twinjet, and typically seats anywhere from 314 to 451 passengers. Depending on the variant, it has a range of 5,235 to 9,380 nautical miles (9,695 to 17,370 kilometers). It was developed to serve as a bridge between the smaller 767 and larger 747 aircraft and has the distinction of being the first entirely computer-designed plane. It is frequently referred to as the Triple 7.

As of June 2013, Boeing had delivered over 1,100 of them.

The first hull loss occurred in January 2008 when a British Airways 777-200ER landed short of the runway, although all passengers and crew members survived. The incident, which resulted from a fuel blockage caused by the release of built-up ice, led to changes in the design of the Rolls-Royce engines used on some 777s. The second hull loss resulted from a flight deck fire on an Egyptair 777-200ER. Again, there was no loss of life.

The Asiana 777-200ER was seven years old, having been delivered to the airline in 2006. This particular aircraft was powered by engines from Pratt & Whitney.

South Korea had a questionable safety record after multiple major, and sometimes fatal, accidents going back as far as the 1970s. In the 1990s, Korean Air and the Korean government embarked upon a series of initiatives designed to improve air safety.

Asiana has had two fatal crashes since it was founded in 1988. In 1993, a Boeing 737-500 landed short of the runway in South Korea’s Mokpo airport in bad weather, resulting in the death of 68 people. In 2011, an Asiana Boeing 747-400 cargo plane crashed in the sea off Korea’s Jeju Island. It was determined that the accident was caused by a fire in the cargo hold, and both pilots were killed.

Today, Asiana operates a fleet of 12 Boeing 777-200ER jets and two Boeing 747-400s for long-haul flights to both the United States and Europe. It has six Airbus A380 superjumbos and 30 Airbus A350s currently on order, and will start to take delivery of these aircraft next year. These planes will also be used to service the airline’s long-haul routes to the U.S. and Europe.

The last fatal crash to take place in the United States was in 2009, when a Colgan Air/Continental Express flight crashed into a house near Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one man in the house.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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