It was no miracle that no passengers died when their 737 broke into pieces upon landing in Colombia earlier this week, according to John Hickey, the FAA's deputy safety chief -- it was by design. "We are totally convinced that the work that we did in the 1980s has proven its value," says Hickey, referring to a series of incremental design regulations intended to make crashes more survivable. Better seats, more accessible exits and better fire prevention have all contributed to the trend of more passengers walking away from crashes, he says. Outside experts agree with Hickey's assessment. "This can't all be luck," says Bill Voss of the Flight Safety Foundation. "I think you have a series of unglamorous incremental improvements making a difference."

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