ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Airline safety – the facts and the numbers

Updated on March 12, 2012
Source

In the United States, there are two main agencies tasked with airline safely issues. One of these is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As part of the Department of Transportation, the FAA is responsible for the regulation and oversight of all aspects of civil aviation.

While the FAA generally is making decisions with the goal of preventing accidents, the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) steps in after an accident has occurred. As an independent federal agency, their function is to investigation transportation accidents, determine the cause, and make recommendations to prevent future accidents. Since its creation in 1967, the NTSB has investigated over 124,000 accidents in the United States and around the world. It maintains an extensive database of these accidents and their findings.

Source

How are aircraft accidents defined?

In order to understand accident statistics, first it’s important to now how the NTSB defines an accident, as well as how they count them. The NTSB divides what are termed ‘aviation incidents’ into 3 categories: near mid-air collisions, incidents, and aircraft accidents.

A near mid-air collision is the least serious. This is any incident that could have resulted in a collision, but no injury or property damage occurred. This would include any instance when there is less than 500 feet between aircraft, or when a flight crew member reports a collision hazard.

The most serious, of course, is the aircraft accident. In order to be counted as an accident, the incident must have occurred after any person has boarded an aircraft for a flight and before all people have left the plane, and the incident must involve either serious injury or death, or serious damage to the aircraft. Accidents are in turn broken down further into four levels of seriousness, from damage only to a major accident, which includes fatalities.

In the middle ground comes the incident. An incident is something that isn’t serious enough to reach accident level, but that affected or could have affected safety. For instance, if a small plane comes within a few hundred feet of an airliner, it would be classified as a near mid-air collision. But if that airliner turns steeply to avoid a collision, causing a passenger to fall and sprain an ankle, the event has now become an incident.

Source

How are accidents calculated?

Now that we know what we’re counting, we can decide how to count. Of course, it would be simple enough to say “Airline A had 2 accidents, and Airline B had 10,” but those numbers alone might not tell the whole story. There is no context for comparison.

For this reason, accident statistics are given as either the number of accidents per one million takeoffs, or the number of accidents per million miles traveled. This makes it possible to more accurately compare carriers of different sizes, or even compare air safety with other types of transportation. If Airline A had 2 accidents during the year with 500,000 flights, their accident rate is 4 accidents per million takeoffs. If Airline B had 10 accidents but 5 million flights, their accident rate is 2 accidents per million takeoffs. Even though Airline B had more overall accident, they actually had a lower accident rate.

Even when comparing accident rates in this manner, the number may not tell the whole story, because numbers don’t indicate the severity of the accident. Basically, an accident is an accident is an accident, whether it involved only property damage or caused dozens of deaths.

Is flying really safer than driving?

It’s something said often, but is it true? The answer is a definite maybe, depending on the type of flight. There is a great deal of difference in the accident rates of commercial airlines compared to that of the small personal planes known as general aviation (GA).

Break down the numbers comparing the number of fatalities per 100 million miles traveled. Despite our worries, driving is a relatively safe activity, averaging 1.32 fatal accidents and 1.47 fatalites per 100 million miles. Commercial airlines average only 0.05 fatal accidents, but 1.57 fatalities. In other words, while the odds of being kille din a commercial plane crash are about the same as being killed in a car crash, the odds of actually being in that plane crash are much lower. This may seem illogical, but the explanation is simple – auto accidents with multiple fatalities are fairly uncommon, but fatal airline crashes almost always have multiple victims.

So in safety terms, flying commercial compares favorably to driving. General aviation, however, is another story, averaging 7.46 fatal accidents and 13.1 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled. This is higher than almost any other mode of transportation. In fact, one of the few methods of travel with a higher fatality rate is walking, which averages just over 20 fatalities per 100 million miles.

Trying to figure the odds? The Department of Transportation has done that for you. According to the USDOT, only 1 in 1.6 million airline passengers dies each year, while 1 in 6800 drivers will die in an accident. Measured another way, one airline passenger dies for every four million flights taken. This is better odds than winning the lottery, much better than the odds of dying as a result of an accidental gunshot, and better than the odds of suffocating in bed while you’re asleep.

When you get right down to it, despite our fears, there’s little cause for worry about your safety when flying in the United States.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)