US airlines didn’t have a single fatality in 2010—a feat that’s at once rarer-than-you’d-think and becoming more common. Fatality-free years have not historically been unheard of in aviation, but they’ve been sporadic occasions—until now. This is the third time in the past four years that US carriers have made it through unscathed, according to data from the National Transportation Safety board.
Indeed, last year didn’t see a single passenger fatality on any airline based in a developed nation, an MIT accident statistics specialist tells USA Today. “In the entire First World, fatal crashes are at the brink of extinction,” he said. You can thank a steady stream of safety improvements that have eliminated a host of risk factors, according to one consultant who once headed safety initiatives for a pilots' union. "The proof of those steps is results like this." But that’s not to say there weren’t close calls. Last January, for example, one plane botched its takeoff and skidded off the runway in Charleston, W.Va. , nearly plunging over a nearby cliff. Instead, it hit a bed of hard foam installed for just such emergencies.