Most people know that flying is safe. But they don’t feel safe when they fly, because it doesn’t feel safe.
It doesn’t feel safe because it’s not always smooth sailing. A typical transatlantic flight is about six hours long. There are no bumps for the first five hours, forty-five minutes. Then for fifteen minutes you hit a patch of turbulence that’s pretty scary, and then for the last fifteen minutes the plane is smooth again.
When people who are afraid of flying experience turbulence, one thought tends to occur to them: this is not normal. When we’re in a car and hit a bump in the road, we don’t think this is not normal; we think “what was that?” When we’re on a train and there’s a sudden jolt, we don’t think this is not normal; we think “what was that?” But when you’re in an airplane and there’s sudden turbulence—either clear air turbulence or thunderstorms—it feels abnormal. It feels strange, like something has gone wrong.
Airlines should take advantage of the opportunity provided by turbulence to reassure their customers that nothing has gone wrong. They should have the captain come over the intercom and say: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is
When it comes to air travel, we’re always looking for the magic formula that will make us feel safer. Is it more turbulence? Less turbulence? More speed? Less speed? More technology? Less technology. The answer is: “Yes.” And no.
When it comes to air travel, there is no magic formula. There’s a lot of rational and irrational fear out there, but in the end, we all have to rely on one common denominator: The men and women behind the controls. Because they are human beings, they will make mistakes. But they will also make corrections. As we can see by looking at the unbroken safety record of commercial flights in this country – now more than three years old — they will do their best to get you from Point A to Point B safely and soundly.
People want to know what to look for when they fly. If the plane is bouncing around too much, what does that mean? If it’s not bouncing enough, does that mean something is wrong? If there’s a smell in the cabin or if the flight attendants look tense, what does that mean? What about all those strange noises we hear coming from the cockpit or out on the tarmac during our pre-flight checks? How scared should we
Air travel is the safest form of transportation. It’s not even close. The fatality rate for U.S. commercial aviation is 0.07 per 100 million miles traveled, compared to 1.4 for rail, 2.3 for buses, and 0.6 for automobiles.
The reason for this would seem obvious: airplanes are heavy metal tubes that fly through the sky at 500 miles an hour, and when things go wrong at that altitude, they tend to go very wrong indeed. But in fact, the statistics tell a different story. The vast majority of air travel fatalities occur in one of two scenarios: crashes on takeoff or landing, or mid-air collisions with another aircraft or object (Think “Miracle On The Hudson”). And both of these situations have one thing in common: turbulence.
The statistical odds of dying in a plane crash (or of being in one) are so slim as to be negligible. If you spend enough time in the air, they may even catch up with you eventually – but that’s still true of driving a car, or crossing the street, or climbing into an elevator shaft after hours (which I don’t recommend doing).
But the number one cause of death associated with air travel isn’t dying in a plane crash;
The most dangerous part of flying is driving to and from the airport.
We know this not because of any data analysis, but because we’ve all heard it so often. It’s become one of those common tidbits that are taken as fact. But is it true? And if it is, what does it mean?
The first question is easy to answer. The second isn’t.
As you can see in the chart above, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), the odds of dying in a car crash are 1 in 84. That’s about a 2% chance over the course of a lifetime. In contrast, the odds of dying on a commercial flight are 1 in 4,066,700—roughly a 0.000024% chance over the course of a lifetime. So yes, you’re more likely to die on your way to or from an airport than you are on an actual plane ride. But that doesn’t really mean anything by itself.
This summer, Americans took to the skies in record numbers. The number of passengers flew 38.1 million passengers, an increase of 3.5 percent over last year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). But even though you were flying at an all-time high this summer, your flight was probably more on time and more safe than it has ever been before.
The BTS also reports that 86 percent of flights arrived on time between June 1st and August 31st, a slight improvement over last year’s 81 percent. And flight cancellations are down to just 1.5 percent from 1.7 percent last year.
But you might be reading about these stats and asking yourself whether or not it is actually safe to fly when there have been so many recent airplane accidents? The answer is “yes.” According to Boeing’s site, “The rate of fatal accidents for commercial jet transports has dropped by 75 percent since 1970.” The rate of fatal accidents during the last ten years was less than 0.002 per flight hour while the rate during the first ten years was 0.02 per flight hour.
LONDON – As we hurtle through a winter of weather woes, it’s worth remembering that flying is the safest way to travel.
There’s a reason for that. The industry is in constant alert mode, and when incidents do happen the response is swift. The fact that there has been just one air accident this year so far – the loss of AirAsia Flight 8501 – compared with more than 20 road deaths a day in Britain alone, just goes to show how effective the aviation industry’s strategies are.
So what happens when an airplane crashes? Immediately after an incident, both the authorities and airlines will try to work out why it happened. For example, in March last year, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. While no wreckage has yet been found, investigators suspect it crashed into the southern Indian Ocean based on satellite data. They are trying to establish why the plane diverted so far off course and why the pilots did not respond to calls from ground control.
In January 2009, Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after flying into severe turbulence during a thunderstorm close to Brazil’s coast. All 228 passengers and crew died. On June 1 this year, investigators released their final report blaming part
It’s not just the calm before the storm, it’s also the turbulence that keeps us in the air.
Imagine flying over a mountain range on a clear day, looking out your window and seeing another plane flying in the opposite direction. It’s flying at the same altitude as you are, so you can see it clearly. As you watch, it begins to move up and down. You realize it’s bouncing in turbulence.
If that plane were a rubber ball, you’d expect to see it bounce back up after hitting a bump. But this plane isn’t elastic; it’s a rigid, steel-and-aluminum structure that bounces only because it has engines and wings, which allow it to push against the air and fly.
To understand how an airplane can bounce like a ball despite being rigid, think about how you can bounce on a pogo stick. When you’re at rest on the ground, your weight is supported by your feet on the ground. But when you’re bouncing on the pogo stick, your weight is supported by springs – which push down on you when they’re compressed, and pull up on you when they extend – within the pogo stick.
The springs that support an airplane aren’t coiled steel; they’re columns of