Planes are safer than ever. Here’s why

Small Plane Crash Statistics

Small Planes vs Cars

According to the NSC (National Safety Council), the odds of dying in a car crash as a driver are 1 in 114, and 1 in 654 as a passenger.

The odds of dying in a plane crash, on the other hand, are 1 in 9,821. It’s, therefore, safe to say that air travel is much safer than car travel.

However, this doesn’t account for any differences between general aviation and commercial aviation. For this, we need to refer to other statistics.

Small Planes vs. Large Planes

The year 2017, which is the safest year on record for air travel, provides the perfect example of how small airplanes are more dangerous than larger airplanes.

In 2017 there wasn’t a single fatality on a passenger jet.

However, if we take a closer look at the statistics, we can see that for general aviation, which is what smaller aircraft qualify under, the numbers paint a different picture.

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) recorded 1,316 accidents and 346 deaths.

To put this another way, according to the FAA, in 2017 general aviation aircraft logged a total of 21.7 million flight hours, with a fatal accident rate of 0.931 per 100,000 hours.

US airlines racked up 19 million hours without a single fatality.

Flying

The National Transportation Safety Board compiles aviation accident data. Preliminary statistics for 2008 show only 20 accidents for U.S. air carriers operating scheduled service. This works out to nearly zero accidents per million flying miles. No one died, and only five people were seriously injured.

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How Often Do Planes Go Around? 

A survey conducted by the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) found that go-arounds occur at an average of 1-3 per 1000 approaches, and 1 in 10 of those go-arounds were to avoid a potentially hazardous outcome. To put it in perspective, over 100,00 flights a day occur worldwide.

Although this maneuver is a standard part of the flight phase, it is a rare procedure for most commercial pilots. Most pilots only conduct a go-around once or twice every few years.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) estimates that there are over 800 standard go-arounds performed a year in Australia every year. Which means there are more than two a day at an airport at any given time nationwide.

There are no penalties or paperwork required when a pilot chooses to abort the landing. In fact, flight crews are encouraged to go-around any time they feel the need.

Are Go Arounds Safe?

It can be nerve-racking when you are about to touch down, and suddenly, you feel the aircraft pitch up and climb away from the ground. The passenger naturally assumes that a go-around indicates a problem; however, it’s the latter.

Go-arounds are undoubtedly safe and are initiated to prevent a potential mishap. The go-around not only removes the aircraft from a dangerous situation, but it also gives the crew more time to troubleshoot or re-align the aircraft with runway.

    According to a study published by Boeing, 49% of incidents transpire when landing, compared to 14 % during the take-off phase. During take-off and landing, pilots have less time to react to problems because of the distance of the plane to the ground.

Go-arounds can still be a risky maneuver if the initiation is ineffective. The aircraft may not have enough power to regain altitude.

If the aircrew fails to initiate a go-around in time, it can breach the separation minimums or suspend the aircraft in wake vortices, creating extreme turbulence.

Conclusion

Statistically speaking, flying is far safer than driving. However, it may feel more dangerous because risk perception is based on more than facts, according to David Ropeik, risk communication instructor at Harvard School of Public Health. Driving affords more personal control, making it feel safer. In addition, plane crashes are catastrophic, killing more people at once, which grabs more attention and makes people more sensitive to them. Car crashes happen every day and spread the loss over time, making their combined effects less noticeable.

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