A survey conducted 22 years ago showed that about 25 million people in the United States feared flying. The survey was conducted again in March 2001, whereupon it was revealed that 20% of the population was still afraid of flying. Apart from psychological phobias, the 9/11 tragedy may have resulted in a mass increase in fears of flying, and compelled us all to think whether flying is really safe. Let's look at some statistics to see whether it is.
Flying: Is It Safe?
More than three million people travel by air every day. A Boeing aircraft takes off or lands somewhere in the world every two seconds. It is estimated that the air traffic will almost double in the next 20 years!
To fly or to drive, that is the question!
Statistics show that flying is 22 times safer than traveling by car. The spectacular amount of attention given by the media to an airplane crash is, ironically, ample proof of how rarely it happens. Car accidents, a fairly regular occurrence by comparison, never get front page reports. A recent study by the National Safety Council showed that the number of deaths that occur due to car accidents in a period of six months is equal to the total number of fatalities caused by the crash of commercial jets worldwide in the last 40 years! Another study by the Ministry of Housing, Regional Development and the Environment shows that a person has a chance of 1 in 800,000 of getting killed while traveling by an airplane and a 1 in 6000 chance while traveling by car. According to Mr. Nicholas Sabatini, the FAA's chief safety official, the risk involved in flying is almost zero. In a speech to international air safety investigators, he stated that if you flew once a day, 365 days a year, it would be 43,000 years before you had a chance of being in a crash, that too 50-50.
No one can provide a 100% guarantee that you will be completely safe in an airplane, a notion that holds true for literally every mode of transport. There's no guarantee that a drunk driver will not hit you while crossing the road, or an iceberg will not sink the 'unsinkable' Titanic.
Many people are afraid of flying because they are afraid of that sensation of not being in control if anything goes wrong. It is more of a psychological fear than one based on facts. Such fear is called aviophobia or aerophobia. People suffering from aviophobia won't feel completely safe no matter what the statistics suggest, but the numbers certainly can help.
Big Brother isn't always a bad thing
If Clarence Oveur and Roger Murdock were to lose consciousness on a modern passenger plane (itself an unlikely concatenation of events, since contaminated fish would never be served), Ted Striker and Elaine Dickinson would never have to land it, thanks to the much more technologically advanced 'Otto's of the modern 'Airplane!'s. Although this wouldn't make for a hilarious movie, it does make for a perfectly safe flight. We have to keep in mind that airline and airport security in the U.S. have been heavily upgraded in the last few years and is now better than ever. Aviation components are always of the highest grade available and very rarely go wrong. Most pilots complete their careers without having encountered a single engine failure. Even if that unfortunate contingency does arise, a modern commercial airplane is designed to cope with the loss of one engine. Commercial airplanes also have 3 levels of backup systems, viz. auxiliary, backup and emergency, in case the primary systems go down. The safety of the passengers is the prime objective of airliners. It is a simple fact that in today's highly competitive business, world manufacturers of aviation components cannot afford their products frequently going wrong and tarnishing the popularity of their brand. As far as airport security is concerned, each flight has an undercover sky marshal, people are allowed to carry only one bag aboard, all luggage is X-ray scanned and only passengers with a valid ticket are allowed past security checking points. Post 9/11, the cockpit has been designed in such a way that it cannot be opened during a flight, thus eliminating the risk of hijackers threatening or injuring the pilot. Apart from the airline authorities, the government regulators and manufacturers are also responsible for safety. Many airlines also regularly come out with pamphlets that include air travel tips for fliers, which inform them about security measures and other useful information.
Flying is now so safe that statistically, you are more likely to be fatally struck by a lightning or stung by a bee than die in an airplane crash. But that doesn't mean you are going to wear an insulating costume whenever it rains or stop going to the park, does it? Flying is now more of a necessity than a luxury. In a world where time is money, it is pointless to waste more time on other modes of transport when flying is the fastest and, as statistics clearly indicate, the safest one.