Friday, 27 March 2015

Is it Still Safe to Fly?

In this, the second worst year for the aviation industry in the past decade, those looking to travel are asking a common question: "Is it still safe to fly?"

Airplane in Sky

In the last year alone there have been multiple tragic aviation disasters including Malaysia Airlines MH370 that disappeared on its journey to Beijing presumably killing all 239 passengers on board. There was also Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which was believed to have been shot down by a buk surface to air missile during the war in Donbass close to the Ukrainian border. All 298 on board were announced as casualties of this incident. We also saw Air Alegerie AH5017 crash in Mali leading to the deaths of all 116 on board. Another tragic incident was Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 which crashed into the Java Sea during bad weather killing all 162 on board. TransAsia Airway flight 235 crashed shortly after takeoff into a river killing 48 of the 58 on board. We have also seen two planes slide off the runways in Turkey and New York with no casualties reported.

Most recently was Germanwings Flight 4U9525 which crashed on its way from Barcelona to Dusseldorf killing all 150 on board. With five flights crashing and killing all on board, it is hard to dismiss the dangers of flying. But is it really unsafe?

Blacked logos of Germanwings and Lufthansa
#InDeepSorrow Germanwings and Lufthansa Airlines blacked out their logos to mourn those lost on flight 4U9525

Statistically, no. Germanwings has been in operation as a budget airline to parent company Lufthansa Airlines since 2002 and has never had an accident before. Its parent company, Lufthansa Airlines, has a fairly clean record as well and has not had an accident with casualties since 1993 (in which the aircraft over ran the runway and killed one of the six crew members and one of the 64 passengers).

Statistically speaking, flying is still one of the safest modes of transportation. You are at a greater risk of being killed on your drive to and from the airport than flying to your destination. In fact, it is estimated that you have a one in 4.7 million chance of being killed on a flight globally. That’s a pretty good record considering you have an estimated 1 in 5000 chance of dying in a car. Numerically speaking the estimated global deaths caused by aviation in 2014 was 761 or 2.08 deaths a day when in comparison the global estimation of deaths caused by cars in 2014 was 1.3 million or 3287 deaths a day.

Driving is just one of many ways to reach your destination, but there are many other modes of transportation. So what about trains, boats and busses? How safe are they? Trains are pretty much on par with the aviation industry with regards to the amount of deaths per year and in most cases are actually lower. However trains have a higher accident rate than planes that lead to injuries when put up against the aviation industry. Boats, ferries and cruises are hard to properly gauge as there is not a registered database, but it is estimated that you are more likely to die on a boat than a plane. Busses are a safe option with a similar death risk as planes, which is quite surprising, especially when you consider they share the same roadways with cars which are relatively unsafe. 

If we consider the above statistics, why do we still make assumptions that flying is unsafe? Why are we afraid of flying? Answers to these questions will always be opinion based, and here are mine:

1. Aviation tragedies are grander in scale, generally killing hundreds of people in a single moment and instantly becoming worldwide news. A plane crash affects people globally since passengers originate from countries all over. Car accidents on the other hand affect a significantly smaller amount of people and rarely breach a local news outlet.

2. Flying is unnatural. It is presumably one of the greatest achievements of man, but at the same time, it is not something we were meant to do. The uneasiness of something unfamiliar can lead to fears. Heck, I was once afraid to fly! Read about that here.

3. Lack of control. Essentially on a plane there is nothing a passenger can do to prevent an accident. With other modes of transportation such as driving a car there is still a chance to avoid a deathly accident.

4. Close calls, bad flights, etc. If you’ve ever been on a plane that was close to being in an accident, over shot the runway or had really bad turbulence then it would make sense to be afraid or feel unsafe in the future on a plane. Even though statistically, you are safe.

Regardless of how you break it all down, it will always be up to the passenger to assess their risk vs. rewards when deciding how to travel. In my opinion, any aviation disaster is terrible and I will always feel bad for the families involved, but I know these accidents are a rare occurrence and flying is a safe mode of transportation. I personally won’t let a few accidents stop me from seeing all that the world has to offer.

The whole Real Man Travel's team would like to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost someone close to them on any of the flights listed above.