Every year, several thousand people die or get injured in airline accidents. Traveling on a commercial airline is not as safe as you would like to believe. On average 1,000 to 2,000 people die, and roughly 2,000 to 5,000 are injured every year since the 1930’s, as regular as clockwork.
Airline incidents are now so common that they hardly make headline news, and many ‘minor’ incidents involving just one or two fatalities and injuries go unreported in the press. Unless you personally experience or witness an airline accident, you can easily go through life under the illusion that plane crashes hardly ever happen.
One astonishing fact is that ninety four percent of plane accidents happen on take off and landing, accounting for about 88 percent of fatalities (figures for injuries are generally not recorded). The other four percent of plane accidents happen while the plane is cruising, accounting for about 12 percent of fatalities. The source for this is the ‘Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents, Boeing’.
Another more surprising fact is that pilot and flight-crew account for over 60% of all fatal airline incidents. Here we are talking about regular commercial airlines, without including military aircraft, private planes, executive jets, etc. Source: the website Air Crash Info.
Since the 1930’s, when air crash statistics first started to be collected, the rate of airline accidents and fatalities has been surprisingly steady. That is, the percentage of accidents and deaths is on average about the same, year on year. So in spite of technical advances, the number of accidents and fatalities per hundred flights continues unabated.
So what are the chances of an airline passenger being involved in plane crash? According to ‘OAG Back Aviation Solutions & Plane Crash Info accident database, 1988 – 2007’ the figures are as follows:
The chances of being on an airline flight which results in at least one fatality are about 1 in 3.3 million. This assumes that on average you travel on a mix of different airlines (not just the airlines with the safest records). Another factor is that many of these plane accidents (about 1 in 4) produces a mix of people who die and people who survive, albeit injured. Such injuries are often life-long (and life destroying).
A comparison between car travel and air travel is difficult because accident rates vary wildly between countries. In the USA, for instance, there are roughly 6 million car accidents a year which results in about 40,000 fatalities a year.
It has been estimated that when you compare numbers of journeys (rather than mileage) you are 12 times more likely to be involved in a fatal plane incident compared to a fatal car incident. In other words, air travel is much less safer than car travel (source: ‘Air Travel Safety Secrets’).
So what can an airline passenger can do to avoid injury and death when you fly? Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do that greatly increase the chances of surviving an airline calamity without injury. But don’t expect to find the answers from an airline. See below for more information.