The thing that makes most US/European commercial aviation comparisons border on silly is the sheer and awesome difference in the seperate markets.
Both American and UAL operate upwards of a thousand aircraft each! Many of the cities they pair in the US have more people in them than a good number of the countries in Europe.
It will warm the hearts of our European friends to know that, yes, one of the most annoying things those of us in the vast suburban empires in America experience is an old 727 roaring out of our nearby airport on a quiet Sunday morning at two to three times the decibal level of a new Next Gen 737 or the practically nonexsitant sound of an Avro RJ capering skyward.
The faithful 72's...even the hush kitted ones...are on their way out. But, as the previous graph shows, you can't just dump them all in one year.
As far as safety is concerned, yes, we've had old airplane issues in the states. But anyone who has ever seen a heavy D-Check required by the FAA at a certain flight cycle knows that the airplane is essentially a like-new machine when the inspection and replacements are performed.
Case in point, a sad one, but I'll bring it up nonetheless...
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Photo © Ted Quackenbush
Here's N739PA, Ocean Maid of the Seas, in happier days. We all know her fate, and we've all seen the sad spot of Scottish countryside where her nose section landed. Consider that this large piece of airplane flew over 30,000 feet at speeds in the hundreds of miles an hour...AFTER a powerful bomb blast. N739 PA had undergone a D-check just months before her doom...the fact that her nose didn't flatten into a million pieces upon impact is testimony to the strength of the average hull of an airliner. Indeed the nose section still had dimension to it even after that brutal landing.
Airplanes are built strong. The people who maintain them are built smart and inquisitive. Put the two together and...well, put it this way....to this day we can't name the exact date the very last DC-3 will make its' very last landing, can we?