The final moment of Asiana flight 214 as it scraped across San Francisco International Airport on July 6 must have been terrifying. Photography of the downed plane shows massive gashes in the cabin caused by intense flames, a missing tail section, and a landscape littered with debris. However, despite the extensive damage, the marvel at how the well-trained flight crew and series of technological innovations made flight 214 less of a tragedy than it could have been. In fact, the aviation industry is relatively safe; on average less than 800 lives are claimed annually due to commercial air travel worldwide. Comparatively, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2011 alone there were 29,757 fatal motor vehicle crashes (nearly 40 times more deaths per year when compared to air travel). Nonetheless, despite the rarity of airplane crashes, scientists pour over the subject to develop safer planes.