What he “discovered” and suggested might shock you…but then again…
United States Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) is worried about airplane accidents, specifically accidents involving small airplanes in New York. In a press release and open letter to the NTSB and FAA, Schumer made the “demand” that the agencies investigate a spate of aircraft accidents that he referred to as an alarming trend, suggesting that further investigation could lead to more answers and “prevent future tragedies.”
Schumer’s staff identified 18 accidents that took place in New York in 2016 and so far in 2017. The accidents Schumer’s office identified resulted in 12 fatalities, which is 12 too many, we agree.
But Schumer’s open letter betrays a lack of perspective on vehicular safety overall and a glaring lack of knowledge of the ongoing efforts of both the FAA and the NTSB to curb accidents, as well as a clear ignorance of the improvement in safety in general aviation.
Some of the accidents that Schumer called attention to were barely accidents, and even in the ones that involved injury or death to the occupants of the planes, there were no injuries to anyone on the ground. In several of the accidents, Schumer pointed out that the mishap took place near structures on the ground.
For starters, New York State is very large. It encompasses 55,000 square miles, making it the 27th largest state in the Union and, with around 25 million residents, it’s the third largest state by population. It has the sixth largest number of airports (574) in the country, and is the fourth leading state in terms of flight hours.
By contrast, in 2011 on Long Island, New York, there were 17 bicycle deaths. So far, Schumer has been mum on these tragedies. In August of 2016, a single accident on the Long Island Expressway killed six people and injured 8 others. In all, more than 1,000 people are killed in motor vehicle accidents in New York every year. Even pedestrians are at greater risk in Schumer’s great state. Every year, around 250 people are killed while walking on sidewalks and roadsides in the state of New York.
Furthermore, Schumer’s demand that the NTSB and the FAA take notice of these accidents is grandstanding of the lowest kind. Not only is he using the tragedies of hard-working American families to gain political advantage (for no apparent reason, too), but the NTSB and the FAA don’t deserve the abuse. These agencies have worked diligently to track and understand air accidents. Over the past two decades, they have succeeded, in tandem with the hard work of pilots and instructors around the country, in halving the number of fatal accidents our segment has suffered.
Perhaps instead of scolding these organizations and inciting public concern over a well managed area of risk in our transportation network, Schumer would be better off to suggest that other transportation segments emulate our aviation safety organizations in hope of making much needed progress in safeguarding the lives of people involved in less sensationalistic forms of transportation.