Riskiest Part of Flight Might Now Be on Ground
With skies safe, officials turn their attention to 'surface threats' on runways
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2011 7:25 AM CST
Pilots say moving planes around busy airports is one of the most challenging parts of their jobs.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – "America's skies are the safest they have ever been," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters this week, and the stats back him up: Deaths from accidents in US commercial aviation have plummeted over the last 15 years, with none registered at all in 2011. Aviation officials say they are now turning their attention toward somewhere potentially much deadlier than the skies for commercial aircraft: the ground, and specifically, the runway.

"We've learned how to operate planes very, very well in the air," a former member of the NTSB tells the Wall Street Journal. Now, "runway events are much more likely to pose a major hazard than in-flight problems." Runway incursions, where two planes end up on the same airstrip, are seen as the biggest danger. By reducing such ground hazards, safety officials aim to cut today's accident risk rate in half by 2025 to a level that would amount to less than one death for every 1.4 billion passengers on US flights.