The price we pay for air safety

 
The view from the air traffic control tower in Manchester, UK. Air travel has become considerably safer over the last 20 years

Despite the tragedy of flight MH370, world air travel is safe. In fact, it may be too safe, according to the Center for Global Development's Charles Kenny.

Government air travel regulations impose a high cost on any airlines that want to fly to the US, including some requirements - such as on-board defibrillators - that are expensive but save relatively few lives.

"There are clear benefits to this process, safer air travel chief among them," he writes in Business Week. "But the unintended consequences also suggest that exporting American regulations around the world could cost more lives than it saves."

Start Quote

International regulations mean lower profits for Kenya Airways and less tax revenue for the Kenyan government”

End Quote Charles Kenny Center for Global Development

He cites a study that shows the cost per life-year saved of defibrillators is $100,000 (£60,500). He compares that with the $7 (£4.25) per life-year cost for vaccinations in developing countries.

Connecting the two takes a bit of logical gymnastics, but here's the crux of his argument:

If Kenya Airways wasn't spending the money putting defibrillators in its jets that fly to the US, it probably wouldn't use the savings to fund a vaccination program. But it might lower the cost of travel to and from Kenya, which would enable more people to travel, in turn increasing all the benefits that travel can bring - tourism dollars, trade, and investment. As it is, the international regulations mean lower profits for Kenya Airways and less tax revenue for the Kenyan government - which really might spend some of that on vaccinations.

Christian Wolmar on the Guardian's website notes that when he was a transportation correspondent 20 years ago, "air disasters outside Europe generated little media interest because they were relatively frequent and generally thought to be inevitable; a price that had to be paid for our mobility".

He notes that some "safety analysts" at the time predicted that increased traffic would mean a plane crash a week by 2010.

"In fact, safety has improved to such a degree that crashes of jets run by established European, American and Asian operators are relatively rare, and attract the kind of blanket coverage accorded to the demise of flight MH370," he writes.

He attributes the improved safety to more reliable planes, better regulations and smarter safety procedures.

With the apparent loss of the Malaysia Airlines jet, there have already been calls to increase spending on global air transportation infrastructure.

Conde Naste Traveler's Clive Irving, for instances, urges more airlines to use live satellite streaming technology to send flight information to air traffic controllers - at an estimated cost of $1,500 a month per plane.

"Aviation safety experts are in no doubt that eventually every airplane should have this system, but how long is 'eventually', given the reluctance of manufacturers, airlines and regulators?" he asks.

Can we afford to ease some government regulation for air travel? Could our money really be better spent elsewhere?

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 57.

    #45 LucyJ

    "Hi Oaktree haven't seen you in a bit

    Did you hear the USA is giving up control of the internet to the UN in Sept 2015?


    Hi Lucy !

    -Nope

    --Any Link to the info ?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 56.

    #44 Chris A

    " Will not mess with Java just to accommodate BBC nonsense - per your link,"

    -- my concern was not your ego.

    -----------

    BBC reports NATO Secretary General Rasmussen supports Obama ????

    With what Right and whose authority ?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 55.

    54. Don't worry, evidence the Russian excursion into Crimea, Israel wagging the US dog on Iran (why expanding settlements at will), Iraq and Afghanistan simply US military materiel justification (for profit wars) and NSA abuses, the world powers will never get their act together and agree on anything - why UN 242 is still ignored. That said, the US as a Dystopia is now a reality.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 54.

    Chris: There is no One World Order - a US fantasy to keep the dumb public in line

    I wish it was a fantasy

    But with so much evidence and so many people waking up and pointing to the One World Order existing
    it simply can't be denied any longer

    Thats why they have to take over the internet because its the last free press left

    The price we pay for the One World Order is our freedom

  • rate this
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    Comment number 53.

    The UN Declaration was signed by all: US, EU, UK, USSR, Israel, etc., even the Islamist states including arch conservative, Saudi Arabia. There is no One World Order - a US fantasy to keep the dumb public in line, typical of a Dystopian state - that the US has rapidly become. You have no independence in the US as Republicans have called the shots since Reagan and the top 2% control everything!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 52.

    Chris: In 1948 the UN issued The Universal Declaration

    The Universal Declaration is not binding and the UN can change its laws anytime it wants

    The EU and UN are the One World Order

    This is the price we pay for giving up our independence- we lose everything we ever worked for and dreamed of

  • rate this
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    Comment number 51.

    50. Again more misinformation - in 1948 the UN issued The Universal Declaration: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ By 1958 all current members were signatories. Worth noting that Republican machinations against the of 'right to choose' by women is counter to Article 12. privacy of person. And Articles 16., 17. and 18. were directed at Islam/Sharia Law that denies women's human rights, period!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 50.

    Chris: NSA has been monitoring since the Patriot Act turned the US into a police state

    Yes USA is being turned into a police state like China
    but because of our Bill of Rights the internet has always allowed freedom of speech

    Now the Internet is being given to the UN which does not have to follow Bill of Rights including freedom of speech

    USA and the world is losing our last free press

  • rate this
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    Comment number 49.

    UN to take over the Internet? The UN could not find it's *** from a hole in the ground! http://mag.newsweek.com/2014/04/04/obama-global-community-run-internet-end-up.html Note that Republican's are represented by that lowlife, Newt Gingrich! Believe me, the internet is 'the money machine' for Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, et al, and they are not about to give up their revenue streams!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 48.

    Chris: You truck out the old canard that the US is giving up control of the internet, yet again - not true

    I wish that you were right it wasn't true

    But it is true and I can't deny the truth

    When the UN takes over the internet on Sept 2015, they will be able to tax and censor anything they want so it is the end of freedom of speech on the web

    This is far bigger than air safety

  • rate this
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    Comment number 47.

    45. You truck out the old canard that the US is giving up control of the internet, yet again - not true: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117093/us-withdraws-icann-why-its-no-big-deal And don't forget that the NSA has been monitoring the www since the Patriot Act turned the US into a police state! So much for freedom 'of any kind' in the US!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 46.

    40. Not good news about US customs and private aircraft. Try travelling on an EC passport from Canada and the third degree at the US border is impressive. In the US for a couple of years, lived in New Jersey on 9/11 - everything changed at airports as Bush Jr's, Patriot Act 'closed the stable door after the horse had bolted' and the nation implemented PNAC as foreign policy to get ready for war!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 45.

    Hi Oaktree haven't seen you in a bit

    Did you hear the USA is giving up control of the internet to the UN in Sept 2015?

    When this happens it will be the end of freedom of speech which is tough as its USA's last free press

    In regards to air safety, it amazes everything that in such a highly tracked world a plane could simply disappear

  • rate this
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    Comment number 44.

    42. Will not mess with Java just to accommodate BBC nonsense - per your link, tried to complete a BBC survey and got hung up also on the tablet mandatory check box - a de facto survey-stall so simply gave it up. Have not much time I'm afraid for the incompetence of BBC blog management, folks just putting in time to get to their pension?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 43.

    Chris et al.

    Don´t know whether it is a mirage or not ?

    --But have already contributed to 3 blogs with no problems.

    --with Javascript on.

    The last time that occurred was on a Sunday with UK topic blogs.

    --Have a try --and report back to this blog.

    Thanks.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 42.

    #38 Chris A

    I have reported the difficulties to the BBC and posted on other Blogs the difficulties many have.

    It appears you have not tried my method and removed Javascript etc. ?

    -- it appears somehow that the ´International channel´ is being used or interfered with for the BETA --mobile and Tablet website.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-the-editors-26609678

    --was told 14 days -OK ?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 41.

    Mr. Kenny's argument may be coldly logical until one remembers America is the most litigious nation on earth. No doubt Mr. Kenny's penny-pinching argument would make quite an impression on American juries hearing lawsuits filed by grieving families against air carriers who had passengers die that might have been saved with on board defibrillators.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 40.

    I fly in and out of the US all the time in private aircraft. When we return, customs rarely even bothers to check us in. We could, if we wanted, smuggle guns, drugs or golf balls. When they do come, it's a cursory discussion and no baggage is ever checked and neither is the aircraft.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 38.

    23. Daily for weeks now, and Mardell and some other blogs are locked out to me now. Post on Echochambers but most of those threads have a first page only display capability with a pink sorry bar at the top. Think that the BBC are actually phasing out comments blogs as they fear a large libel lawsuit from a whako American operation at some point?

 

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