I am not always entirely at ease flying either. Nothing that a reasoned scientific argument with myself won’t fix, but still. My dad for a long time didn’t want to fly from Europe to Australia to come visit, but at long last he did… and then again a second time. Not sure if that was fear, or discomfort, or a mix of both. I know for a fact that my youngest brother still hasn’t been here for fear of flying.
Some days I wish there were a high-speed train that stretches around the world to make this a non-issue.
But in the mean time, the statistics are really not bad at all.
Keep in mind that this list has the worst disasters with the most fatalities. Keep in mind that this list covers the past 52 years. Over the 102 worst disasters over 52 years this list accounts for less than about 400 deaths a year. Less if we take out the outlier of 9/11 which accounts for a lot of people on the ground as well.
The ten-year average across all accidents (minor as well as major) is about 700-odd each year worldwide.
It is funny how something so relatively safe gets blown out of proportion by the fear centres of our brains.
Looking at some recent single-year statistics:
- 4609 people died in workplace accidents in the US in a single year
- 6000 people died in falls, most commonly off roofs in the US in a single year
- 7638 people died from HIV
So, basically… sex is more likely to kill you than flying.
Just don’t try to join the mile-high club and you’ll be fine.
The only reason it feels so much scarier than all those things that are higher risk overall to our continued survival is that once you are inside a plane with the doors closed, you are at the mercy of the pilot. Until you land again, you have no say in your fate. Human error, freak weather incidents, mechanical failure. It could strike and then you’re gone.
…statistically that just doesn’t happen.
Heart disease alone kills more than half a million Americans every year, and many more worldwide. We would all have to start flying about 1000 times more often than we do now (for me: about 70 times a day, every day of the year) to have the risk of flying match the risk of heart disease.
Eating healthier will do far more for your life expectancy than fretting over flying.
As a matter of fact… the stress from the worrying is statistically probably more lethal than the flight itself.
Just do as I do… bring a book or some media. Turn it on and stop thinking about the plane until it lands again. It’ll be done before you know it and then you can get on with living your life as if nothing is ever going to kill you.
Footnote: note that less than 20% of the incidents in the list at the top of this post are with airlines I would even consider flying myself. If you can (afford to) be a bit discerning about the airline you fly, your risk dramatically decreases as well.