Check Out Your Airline's Safety Records Online Before You Fly

Are you tired of waiting for those scary headlines to hit detailing safety failures to find out about an airline’s safety records? For those spooked by Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 forced to make an emergency landing when a hole torn open in its fuselage mid-flight, there are a few things you can do to check things out before booking and boarding.

SmartMoney outlines some useful sites where consumers can read up on an airline’s safety record, compare it with rivals and even investigate a certain model’s record and how it has performed in various weather conditions.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s “Accident Database” has details on incidents and accidents going back to 1962, so it’s a good place to start. There, you can key in airlines, aircraft, dates and weather conditions.

“Generally, a preliminary report is available online within a few days of an accident,” according to the NTSB. “Factual information is added when available, and when the investigation is completed, the preliminary report is replaced with a final description of the accident and its probable cause.”

The Federal Aviation Authority also has an “Accident/Incident Data System” which includes records for general aviation and commercial air carrier incidents since 1978.

Airline Safety Records is a site independent of the FAA, and calls itself “a report card” for airline safety. There you can find five-year and one-year averages of U.S. airline accidents per 1 million takeoffs up to January 2009.

For those flying abroad, check out the International Air Transport Association. Around 230 airlines are included, covering 93% of the international traffic scheduled. After you search the safety audit reports, you do have to mail an actual form in.

How To Check Your Airline’s Safety Record [SmartMoney]