Fear Of Flying 101

A few Strange But True items:

     (1) Most fatal aviation accidents are a result of pilots flying a perfectly good airplane into the dirt.

     (2) More twin engine airplanes are involved in fatal accidents than are single engine airplanes when engine failure occurs. ( Airplanes with more than one engine are difficult to control when an engine quits.)

     (3) Modern systems that warn of approaching terrain are often ignored by pilots. Often with tragic results.

    (4) Pilots rely on airport maps as small as 4 square inches with tiny writing and obscure little notes in order to follow directions on the ground.  Only a few airplanes have any kind of electronic map that works on the ground.  There are no stop signs.

But ………

    (5) If  an airliner  crashed every single day the number of people killed in cars would be about the same.  Another way to put it would be that if as many people were killed in airplanes as in cars then all of the airplanes in the world would be gone in about six months. The airplane factories could not build airplanes fast enough to kill as many people as cars do.

   (6) If the average level of anxiety applied to flying were applied in proportion to the actual risk of  riding in a car most people would be crouching behind trees, afraid to cross the street. Much less actually ride in a car.

Then again, most people drive like shit. Even below average pilots usually try pretty hard to not wreck.


6 Responses to “Fear Of Flying 101”

  1. PilotDave Says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m a general aviation SEL pilot with a couple hundred hours under my belt. I fly for fun, family vacations, and work when I can swing it. I’m forever frustrated by those who are too scared of airplanes to accept a flight, or who refuse their children’s desire for a ride due to their own fear. And especially of all those who express their perception that flying is dangerous and that more restrictions should be put on flying. (Sure, a person has the right not to fly, but it’s a travesty to restrict others their right because of your unwarranted fears.)

    I have attempted to perform my own research comparison of the safety of road traffic versus air traffic but have been generally stymied by the reporting numbers. Air travel is calculated in hours of flight. Road travel is calculated in miles driven. It’s really apples to oranges – which is why the only real comparison can be the step-back big picture. Things like total fatalities per year for each category, etc.

    (Of course, while survival rate and fatalities are not necessarily good measures of safety, it’s what we have.)

    I like your example of a crash every day for 6 months (and then no more crashes because there are no more planes) as a comparison to road fatalities. That definitely puts things in perspective. Some other ways to look at it are:

    – On rough average, a person dies on the road every 15 minutes of every day. A person dies in an airplane once every four days. So, it takes roughly 380 people to die on the road before a single person dies in an airplane.

    – Using flight departure numbers, a person’s chances of being on a flight that crashes AND kills people is around 1 in 4million. At these odds, a person could potentially fly once per day for over 10,000 years without incident.

    – Taking a round trip flight somewhere (2 flights) gives you a 1 in 2million chance of dying. Taking that same trip by car gives you a 1 in 90,000 chance of dying. You are more than 20 times more likely to die on the road than in the air for that same trip.

    No matter how you slice it, air travel is a less risky form of travel fatality-wise than road travel. The real problem, of course, is the horror of a couple hundred people dying all at once, as opposed to one person dying every 15 minutes. Such acceptance in society shows a subscription mindset, rather than paying-it-all-up-front, I suppose.

  2. The wise philosopher Dr.Phil once said that there is only one fear: loss of control. Flying is scary because you have to hand over control, and no one sitting anywhere around you has any control either. Even though driving is extremely dangerous, there’s always the flawed sense that when the time comes you’ll be able to steer yourself out of danger.

    Of course Dr.Phil also once said that the only way to get a gopher is to go to the hole. So you know. Grain of salt.

  3. luckyjet1 Says:

    I thought it was Golfer. No wonder it didn’t make even a little sense.

  4. I wrote this long thing and then forgot to put my email so I’m just now returning to write again after two days of pouting, and your daughter beat me to it.
    Yes. Control. Not having it. Yes.
    You can whiteboard and dry erase me with facts and figures all day long, but really it’s the loss of control that’s the thing. And I heard someone else say that people who are afraid to fly don’t feel accomplished in their lives (tentatively raising my hand…).

    I know it’s safe, and I know my destiny is a firey inferno should I continue traveling in my car, but gosh it’s SOOO high up there and Survivorman says that a lot of planes are made of fabric…FABRIC? Cause you can make fire with the actual outside of a plane should you crash and survive the REAL fire which of course would never ever happen. And it’s all shakey and wobbley and CLOUDS? can be dangerous to you?

    I do LOVE to realize though again and again that for those employed by the airline, this is just work. And like you said, you have a vested interest in making the airplane do the things it’s supposed to do. It gives me seconds of peace to think these thoughts. The only comfort I have while flying is the people doing the flying and the people helping the people that are flying. So…

    …as I like to say to my ex-boyfriends, it’s not you. It’s me. But this time I mean it.

  5. luckyjet1 Says:

    Airplanes suck in the event of an accident. The thing is, they are sooooo safe mainly because there just isn’t much likelyhood of an accident way up high.

    Lack of control is certainly an issue. Most pilots make below average passengers, me included. I make a mental note of about everything I don’t approve of. And I sleep.

    I prefer to sit next to or very near an exit, I prefer to ride in nice weather for landing and takeoff. I also would never ever put one of thoses blankets or pillows near my face.

    Even the Department Of Transportation had the good sense to allow people to carry babies on airliners without a car seat. The logic was that evn without the car seat they would be about 100,000 times safer than on the road.

    It also might help to understand that airplanes really don’t need much control. The things are really stable, even without the autopilot. There is none of that pesky staying in one’s own lane requirement, and weaving is just fine. No debris on the road, and just about NO chance of getting squashed by a train.

    Planes are enough safer that even if flying scares you inordinately, please, please don’t drive if you could fly. And please drive carefully when you must.

  6. oh alright, fine.

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