How Safe Is Air Travel?

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Unless you’ve avoided television and the Internet entirely over the past few years, it has been almost impossible not to be aware of the recent dramatic and tragic airplane crashes. It’s enough to make even seasoned travelers wonder if flying is getting steadily less safe. Although the past few years have featured a few high-profile crashes, if you take the long view it becomes clear that the airline industry actually has a very good safety record — and it’s getting better, not worse.
According to the International Air Transport Association, in 2015 there was one commercial jet accident per 4.5 million flights. This was in line with 2014, when the number was one accident per 4.4 million flights, and better than 2013 (one accident per 2.4 million flights). In 2015 the 510 total fatalities were out of more than 3.5 billion journeys. On average you would need to fly every day for 55,000 years in order to be involved in a fatal crash.
Here are 11 Things Not to Do on a Plane:
Driving is the obvious first comparison, and the National Safety Council notes that your odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 1 in 112. Your odds of dying in a plane crash? 1 in 96,566.
The National Safety Council offers these odds on other methods of dying, all of which are significantly more likely to happen than being killed in a plane crash:
– Being assaulted by a firearm: 1 in 358
– Being electrocuted: 1 in 12,200
– Walking down the street: 1 in 704
– Falling: 1 in 144
– Overdosing on a prescription painkiller: 1 in 234
Further, airline safety experts believe that the industry is likely to maintain and even improve these statistics as technology improves, older fleets are replaced and developing regions such as parts of Asia strive to match the air safety record of Europe and the United States.
There are a bunch of good reasons many of us remain wary of air travel, and none of them is “because we are idiots.” For one, for many decades air travel really wasn’t so safe.
Second, studies of various types of fear have largely concluded that the fear of any activity or possibility is rarely overcome by reading statistics and lots of rational thought. Rather, our deep inclination toward self-preservation takes over, and it can be nearly impossible to turn that off. Even if we know that flying is safer than taking a bath, and even if we’re aware of some of the stats and the effect of media amplification, it is still hard not to wonder if it’s really safe to fly.
So we will offer the single most effective tactic. Look to the leaders of the team, the flight attendants and pilots.
These folks choose to do this every day, as their job. They get up early, put on work clothes, have a quick breakfast, commute to work — and then, as routinely as many of us go to the office and boot up the computer, get on a long-haul plane. Look at their faces. They are not scared or nervous — it’s just another day on the job. If they’re not worried that their 55,000 years are up, why should we be?

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