Ask a Pilot with Spencer: Are Newer Planes Safer?

Are newer planes safer?

In our Ask a Pilot collection, pilot Spencer Marker solutions one among your aviation-related questions every week. See previous installments right here and submit your personal to

The query

Do you’re feeling safer in newer planes? Are older planes extra harmful?

—Marie S.


The reply

Hello Marie. Thanks a lot for writing in to be featured on this week’s Ask a Pilot. Standard knowledge would point out that the newer an airplane is, the safer that’s. Nevertheless, this isn’t essentially the case.

The reality is the security and reliability of an airplane all the time comes right down to how nicely the plane is taken care of. And whereas a newly manufactured plane requires much less work to maintain it in tip-top form initially, older plane can nonetheless function simply as safely and reliably as their youthful counterparts.

Like the rest in life, from automobiles to computer systems, a machine’s reliability is rooted in how nicely it’s taken care of. Airplanes are not any completely different. If an airplane is uncared for and poorly maintained, it is not going to be dependable. Nevertheless, the FAA has set strict guidelines about how and when an airplane must be inspected, and the way thorough the inspections needs to be.

To start with, an airplane is inspected earlier than each flight by its pilots. If one thing, similar to a tire, wants fastened or changing, mechanics are referred to as out earlier than the flight is allowed to depart for its vacation spot.

From there, mechanics additionally do periodic inspections, making certain the fundamental operation of options similar to lights, hydraulics and different gadgets to make sure the airplane is secure to fly. These checks are carried out roughly every single day or each different day, relying on the airline’s FAA accepted upkeep program.

Along with these frequent inspections, plane are required to go to the hangar for extra intensive inspections starting from 10 man hours of labor to over 50,000. Probably the most intense preventative upkeep an airplane will see is in a D Test. Occurring roughly each Four-6 years, a D Test entails the elimination of main system parts for inspection and restore, together with eradicating each cabin seat and all fixtures. Moreover, the plane’s paint can be eliminated after which its pores and skin can be X-rayed to make sure structural integrity. These upkeep visits final roughly Eight-10 weeks.

This schedule of steady inspection and preventative upkeep ensures older plane match the reliability of the youthful plane within the fleet.

Over time nonetheless, older plane do turn into costlier to take care of, prompting some airways to speculate closely in new airplanes are retire the older ones. American Airways has spent over $20 billion investing in a whole lot of latest plane from Boeing and Airbus. In accordance with, American’s common fleet age is just a little underneath 10 years outdated, down 14 years outdated in 2012.

On the opposite facet of the coin is Delta Air Strains, whose common fleet age among the many oldest within the US at 17 years. Nevertheless, regardless of its older fleet, Delta Air Strains has the very best reliability amongst main carriers, going 241 days in 2016 with out a mainline cancellation.

Delta’s method varies from American’s as a result of, relatively than investing solely in new airplanes (which Delta has a number of hundred on order anyway), Delta has chosen to spend money on its upkeep division. By doing so, it is ready to maintain its older fleet flying extra reliably than different legacy airways.

When older airplanes are constructed new, they often lack the most recent and best know-how. Nevertheless, in terms of security gear, the FAA requires that each plane meet a sure customary. This customary adjustments over time relying on what know-how is deemed obligatory for secure flight.

So older plane are required by the FAA to satisfy a sure customary of onboard security gear, whether or not on the flight deck or within the passenger cabin. This gear is required to be integrated into all plane, no matter age.

Moreover, older plane will be modified to fly extra effectively, extending their service lives. Most notably, the addition of winglets (vertical surfaces on the wing ideas of airplanes) has prolonged the service lives of older 737, 757 and 767 plane by making them burn much less gas.

To sum up
There are quite a lot of components that dictate how secure and dependable an airplane is. Nevertheless, the best way an plane is maintained is paramount to it’s dependable operation. Thankfully, the FAA has established necessities for normal upkeep inspections and in addition units the usual for what security gear should be onboard the plane.

So to obviously sum up: With correct care, older plane are simply as secure as new ones. Do you could have a favourite outdated plane story? In that case, submit within the feedback under! Thanks once more for the query! Have you ever heard the well-known Airbus “barking canine”? Share your tales under! And if anybody has a burning aviation query or one thing you prefer to cleared up, drop us a line at to get your query featured in an upcoming Ask a Pilot column.




Spencer Marker

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