Missing EgyptAir Jet: Airbus A320 Has 'Excellent Safety Record'

Image: An Egyptair Airbus A320 with the registration SU-GCC
The missing Egyptair Airbus A320 — with the registration SU-GCC — sits on the tarmac at Cairo airport on Dec. 10, 2014.AP

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By Alexander Smith

The Airbus A320 has been involved in several high-profile incidents in recent years — but remains one of the safest commercial jetliners in the world.

One of the twin-engine planes takes off every 2.5 seconds somewhere on the planet. A workhorse jet, it is used by most U.S. airlines and more than 6,700 of them are in operation worldwide.

They include EgyptAir Flight MS804 — which vanished from radar and crashed early Thursday while carrying a total of 66 passengers and crew from Paris to Cairo. Airbus said the missing Airbus A320 was made in 2003 and delivered to EgyptAir in 2008, adding that the aircraft had accumulated around 48,000 flight hours.

The incident came after an 18-month period in which there have been at least six fatal incidents involving the A320 or its variants.

Most notable was the March 2015 crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, which was deliberately brought down by its co-pilot over the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.

Seven months later, ISIS claimed responsibility for bringing down an Airbus A321 — a variant of the A320 — flown by Russian airline Metrojet. All 224 passengers and crew were killed.

In Dec. 2014, 162 people died after the pilots of an AirAsia A320 struggled to deal with a computer failure that caused the aircraft to stall into the Java Sea.

In February, the Islamist extremist group al Shabab claimed responsibility for blasting a hole in the side of a Daallo Airlines A321 in Somalia — sucking out the suspected bomber but leaving the other passengers unharmed.

However, experts say the A320 remains remarkably safe.

The missing Egyptair Airbus A320 — with the registration SU-GCC — sits on the tarmac at Cairo airport on Dec. 10, 2014.AP

To date, the fleet has completed some 180 million flight hours in more than 98 million flights.

An Aug. 2015 study by Boeing, Airbus' industry rival, said the A320 and its variants suffered a fatal crash just 0.14 times every 1 million flights — or one crash every 7 million journeys.

This puts in on a par with the Boeing 777, another airliner that has suffered several high-profile crashes but remains statistically safe.

"The A320 has an excellent safety record," Paul Hayes, director of safety and insurance at the U.K.-based Ascend Flightglobal Consultancy, told NBC News. "You have got to realize that while there are thousands of these aircraft and millions of flights, unfortunately there are losses."

Retired airline captain John Cox told MSNBC that the A320 is "an extremely reliable airplane."