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Unveiling the Facts: How Safe is Flying?

Unveiling the Facts: How Safe is Flying?

Nicolle Harwood-Nash
7 minutes read
Last Updated: March 22, 2024

A common thought amongst air travellers or those anticipating their first flight is "How safe is flying on a plane?". In short, it's the safest way to travel long distances.

To put it into perspective, out of a staggering 32.2 million flights in 2022, only 5 resulted in fatal accidents which involved the loss of a total of 158 lives, according to data by the International Air Transport Association. That's approximately 0.000016%, reinforcing the fact that flying on a plane is among the safest activities one can undertake.

Our expert team at AirAdvisor aim to demystify the safety aspects of the airline industry for you. In this article, we explain how flying safety compares with other transport methods like driving, examine the reasons behind those extremely rare crashes, and provide handy tips for abolishing flying fears.

Whether the thought of flying sends shivers down your spine or you're just curious about the safety statistics associated with soaring through the skies, this article is for you!

Is Flying Safer Than Driving?

When we examine the safety of different modes of transport, the stark contrast between flying and driving is unmistakable. As mentioned before, there were only 5 fatal accidents resulting in 158 deaths among 32.2 million flights worldwide in 2022, a minuscule fraction when compared to the number of flights. On the other hand, road transport presents a different picture.

In the same year, 20,600 fatalities resulted from road crashes across the European Union alone. This figure was a 3% increase from the previous year's statistics, whereas the aviation fatality rates continue to decrease.

It's important to remember that every time we choose a mode of transport, we're choosing a level of risk. However, based on these figures, it's evident that the risks associated with air travel are remarkably low when compared to those of road transport. Despite the sometimes nerve-wracking thought of being thousands of feet in the air, statistics demonstrate that flying is a safer bet and that you have bigger chances of being involved in a car crash.

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Is It Safe to Fly During a Thunderstorm?

Flying during a thunderstorm is generally considered safe. Modern aircraft are designed and built to withstand the impact of lightning strikes and heavy rain. Moreover, pilots receive extensive training to handle adverse weather conditions, aided by advanced weather radar systems that help them steer clear of stormy areas.

With that being said, for the sake of passenger comfort and safety, airline pilots typically choose to navigate around thunderstorms whenever possible.

Is It Safe to Fly in Turbulence Zones?

Experiencing turbulence mid-flight can be an unsettling experience, but it's important to remember that planes are constructed to endure these situations. A 'turbulence zone' refers to an area of the atmosphere where air masses with different temperatures or wind speeds mix, causing the aircraft to shake or suddenly shift altitude.

Pilots and air traffic control work in tandem to anticipate these areas and adjust the flight path for a smoother journey. Despite the occasional bumpiness, flying in turbulence zones is largely safe, albeit a bit hair-raising.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Airplane Crashes?

While aeroplane crashes are exceptionally rare, they usually result from a mix of factors. The most common causes are as follows:

  • Airline Pilot error: Even highly trained pilots can make mistakes. Errors could range from misjudging weather conditions to incorrectly handling emergencies.
  • Mechanical failure: Despite thorough checks, mechanical issues, including engine or hydraulic failures, can occur. Improvements in technology and maintenance routines have reduced these incidents, but they can still happen.
  • Adverse weather conditions: While pilots are trained to navigate through difficult weather, severe conditions like storms can cause accidents. Weather can change rapidly, presenting risks even with advanced monitoring systems.
  • Miscommunication or lack of communication: Communication is vital in aviation, both among cockpit crew and with air traffic control. Any misunderstanding or failure in communication can lead to serious errors, even collisions.

The Biggest Crashes in History

Air travel has become an emblem of safety in transportation, with advancements in technology, regulation, and training greatly reducing the likelihood of accidents. However, acknowledging and remembering some of the major historical crashes in aviation is important.

These events have not only shaped the industry's narrative, but have also driven significant safety improvements. Each unfortunate incident has served as a lesson, providing invaluable insights that have helped to make flying the safest form of long-distance travel today.

Here are some of the most notable commercial plane crashes in aviation history:

  • The Tenerife airport disaster (1977): The worst accident in aviation history occurred when two Boeing 747s collided on the runway, resulting in 583 fatalities. It was partly caused by one of the pilots thinking he was cleared by the air traffic controllers for takeoff.
  • Japan Airlines Flight 123 (1985): Due to a mechanical failure, the flight crashed into mountains, leading to the deaths of 520 people.
  • Turkish Airlines Flight 981 (1974): A design flaw in the cargo door led to explosive decompression mid-flight, causing the plane crash in a forest near Paris, France, and killing all 346 people on board.

These tragic events have profoundly influenced the aviation industry's commitment to improving safety regulations and procedures.
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How can I get past my fear of flying?

Whether the thought of flying leaves you feeling uneasy or downright fearful, it's essential to remember that these feelings are quite common. Overcoming this fear of flying is not only possible, but also incredibly rewarding, opening up the world for you to explore.

Here are some helpful strategies to get you started on your journey towards fearless flying:

  • Understand your fear: Identify what scares you about flying. If you're afraid of heights, an aisle seat may be better. If small spaces worry you, opt for extra legroom seats to feel less squished. By understanding your fear, you can work to combat it.
  • Think positive: Avoid visualising worst-case scenarios. Instead, focus on the excitement of reaching your destination. This positive thinking can help to ease your fear.
  • Don't Rush: Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Rushing can increase anxiety, so plan to get there early and relax.
  • Enjoy the airport: Look for opportunities to relax at the airport. Some have relaxing spaces to sit in, or you can opt to shop or eat. An activity can help distract from your fear.
  • Speak to the crew: Inform a flight attendant about your anxiety. They're trained to help passengers cope with a fear of flying and can provide extra support.
  • Breathe and relax: Practice deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to calm your body and mind. You can do this before and during your flight.
  • Stay hydrated: Avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate you and increase your anxiety. Opt for water or soothing herbal teas instead.
  • Consider medication: Some people use prescribed tranquillizers for flight anxiety. However, remember that medication is a short-term solution and should be used under a doctor's advice.
  • Therapeutic activities:Explore long-term solutions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), confrontation therapy, or hypnosis. These can help you overcome your fear in a sustainable way.
  • Courses by airlines: Some airlines offer courses to help passengers overcome their fear of flying. These courses provide professional insights into flying, which can help to ease your worries.
  • For kids: If your child is afraid, don't ignore it. Use distraction techniques, explain air turbulence simply, and provide onboard entertainment to keep them calm.

Remember, the fear of flying is common and treatable. Don't let it limit your opportunities to explore and experience the world.

FAQs

If you feel like you still have unanswered questions, here, we aim to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about flying safety:

How safe is flying in a plane?

Travelling by plane is actually the safest form of long-distance transportation. With extremely rare accidents, flying has advanced significantly in terms of safety measures and protocols. As discussed previously, in 2022 there were only 5 fatal accidents among 32.2 million flights, which is an infinitesimal percentage of 0.000016%.

How safe is flying right now?

Despite various challenges that the aviation industry may face at any given time, flying remains consistently safe. When it comes to aviation, safety is always the priority, and airlines and aviation authorities continually work on improvements and updates to safety measures and procedures. Advanced technology and rigorous training protocols ensure that every flight you board meets the highest safety standards.

How safe is flying compared to driving?

When we compare the safety of flying and driving, the difference is massive. Statistics continuously indicate that air travel is significantly safer than road travel. For instance, in 2022, while there were only 158 fatalities from aeroplane crashes globally, there were tragically 20,600 fatalities resulting from road accidents just in the EU. This stark contrast underscores the incredible safety record of aviation compared to road travel.

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