This Year Was A Statistically Fantastic One In Terms Of Staying Alive On Airplanes

The bodily terror some might feel upon having to embark on a journey through the air might be eased a bit by knowing that 2011 was a very good year so far as personal safety. Experts say the number of passengers killed in air accidents this year is down an encouraging amount from last year.

MSNBC cites analysis from aviation consultation company Ascend that says worldwide there were 401 fatalities in 2011, down from 726 in 2010. Considering that about 2.9 billion people fly the friendly skies each year, that’s only one fatality for every 7.1 million passengers. That’s an all-time low since the company began looking at data in 1990.

Other experts agree as well, attributing the low numbers to various factors.

“There are a couple of things in play,” said aviation consultant Peter Goeltz, senior vice president with O’Neill and Associates and former director of the National Transportation Safety Board. “Aircraft and avionics are better than ever, training is better and we’re getting more information on potential danger points because pilots can report mistakes without being punished.”

So if you’re still really scared of flying, which airlines should you avoid? Smaller carriers and those servicing certain markets.

“I wouldn’t fly Kyrgyzstan Airways or any other ‘Stan Airways for that matter,” said Goelz, “and Africa is still a terrible place to fly due to the lack of infrastructure and civil aviation oversight.”

And things are only going to get better, as the industry continues to improve with new technology and safety practices.

Air-travel fatality rate hits all-time low [MSNBC]


Edit Your Comment

  1. smo0 says:

    My friend downs the Klonopin** (sp) before flying anywhere….

    I’ve only recently developed a fear of flying since a massively turbulent flight about 3 years ago,

    • tbax929 says:

      It’s funny how a bad flight can do that to you. I had a horrendous flight the last time I crossed the country by plane. I’ve been flying for 20 years and had never experience turbulence like that. I wouldn’t say I’m afraid to fly, but I am not exactly looking forward to my next flight (to Hawaii this summer).

      • smo0 says:

        Yeah, IT ONLY TAKES ONE.

        • GTI2.0 says:

          …except the odds of turbulence bringing down a flight are next to zero. The closest thing we’ve had to that in modern history was the Air France 447 disaster, and even then, it was 99% caused by pilot error and 1% by weather (that the pilots shouldn’t have flown through – their error caused them to do just that)

          • Velvet Jones says:

            447 was not brought down by turbulence. The pilot tubes froze over and gave faulty air speed readings. They basically glided in to the ocean in a somewhat controlled stall. Turbulence/weather likely contributed to the accident, but pilot error via mechanical failure was the ultimate cause. Modern jet aircraft can withstand severe turbulence with little danger, other than passengers not wearing their seat belts. Small craft are different though. I would not want to fly in a tiny plane in really bad weather.

            • GTI2.0 says:

              Right, which is exactly what I said. 99% pilot error, 1% weather. Had they not flown through a system they shouldn’t have, the pitot tubes wouldn’t have frozen up. I’ll give that little detail 1% of the fault.

            • GTI2.0 says:

              Odd, hopefully this isn’t a dupe but my original reply didn’t show up.

              You basically parroted what I said – 447 was not brought down by weather, but weather was a factor. 99% of it was crew stupidity, 1% was the Pitot tubes froze up in part because they flew through a weather system that had the crew not been stupid, they wouldn’t have flown through. So, 1% weather, 99% pilot. Without the weather the pilots probably wouldn’t have screwed up, but with it it’s what started the chain of events.

          • axhandler1 says:

            This isn’t quite modern, but a plane broke up over Mt. Fuji from clear air turbulence back in the sixties. Here’s the link:

      • denros says:

        I know, right? If the part of our brain that causes that deep, primal fear had ANY sort of reasoning capability, you would think that getting through an extremely turbulent flight would make you more *calm* about flying,.

    • KB Foodie says:

      My mom downs the Klonopin before flying anywhere as well. And by flying I mean getting off the bed/ couch. And by anywhere I mean the kitchen/ bathroom…

    • CrisA says:

      I get massively motion sick, so I take a prophylactic Dramamine before getting on a plane, and a second at the slightest hint of turbulence. This has the bonus effect of completely knocking me out and letting me sleep through the entire flight. Flying scares me a lot less than it used to because of it – you can’t fret over every bump when you’re in a drug-induced slumber.

  2. KyBash says:

    TSA takes credit in 3 . . . 2 . . .

  3. consumeristjohnny says:

    Fear of flying is not a rational fear for most people. Most phobias are not. I am claustrophobic (an elevator can be very trying if it ever gets stuck). I intellectually know there is no problem, but that does not change the fear. Flying is that same type of fear. I don’t have it, but understand those that might

    • shepd says:

      Yep, just like I tell people you’re safer flying than traveling any other way (including walking), I tell people they’re safer taking the elevator than the stairs… …and I bet you knew that but the elevator still scares you.

      It’s okay, I get anxious around balloons. :^D Actually left work for a day when they decided it was going to be balloon filling party time.

  4. dorianh49 says:

    This just means they’re due.

  5. AngryK9 says:

    Certainly outrageous fees and ticket prices coupled with the crappiest economy since the 1920s had nothing to do with this.

    • GTI2.0 says:

      wrong, ridership is at it’s highest in history and planes are more full than ever. crappy economy has nothing to do with it

  6. lvdave says:

    In other words, ONCE you get into the air, you’re pretty safe.. Too bad nobody’s come up with a way for us non-pilots to GET up in the air without getting either irradiated or groped by TSA. I LOVE to fly but as long as getting on the plane has those two choices before you board the plane, I am not flying.. PERIOD.. Used to fly for work and vacation two or three times/year, since the TSA became so obnoxious, I haven’t flown once, nor WILL I… Guess if enough of us feel this way, the airlines will suffer… Sorry ’bout that..

    • egoods says:

      I wish that were a possibility for me, but until I find another way to cover large distances in a very short amount of time I will continue to fly. Mainly because my job forces me to, but moreover when I go on vacation I’d rather not spend days traveling.

  7. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I’m still not giving up the drink before getting in a metal tube with hundreds of people to fly hundreds of miles an hour thousands of feet above the ground.

  8. balthisar says:

    Nice. Good thing I’m not superstitious and believe in jinxes, because I’m about to take 3 flights over the next 36 hours. I guess they still all count for 2011, though, except for the last flight. Because of the great circle route and the international date line, I won’t really know what year it is unless the flight crew says something.

  9. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Four years ago Nepal Airlines made the news when the sacrified a couple goats on the runway to appease the Hindu sky god because of techinical problems they were having with a 757.

    No crash reports. I guess it worked.

  10. beachmouse says:

    Also stay the heck away from former Soviets charter flights if you’re concerned about safety.

    R.I.P. Yaroslavl Lokomotiv

  11. vliam says:

    Sure beats the hell outta 2001.

  12. NebraskaDan says:

    Watch the Louis CK routine about flying,

  13. Velvet Jones says:

    For all of the molestation by the TSA and the safety checks by the FAA, the biggest danger to the plane is still the two people in the cockpit. Close to 95% of modern fatal plane crashes involve some sort of pilot error. Either it is an outright mistake by the pilot, such as improper take off or landing procedures, or some extremely poor judgements about weather and overall flight conditions. Purely aircraft related failures are the rarest of crashes. Even in those cases, it’s usually caused by something the mechanics did. Planes themselves are amazingly safe for how complex they are and how much abuse they take.

  14. yurei avalon says:

    2010 like a third of that number was probably due to that big Brazil/France flight that crashed in the ocean. I think there was 200+ people on that flight. Or was that ’09? It was still terrible regardless.

    I’d say that at least in the US less people are probably flying between the economy and the TSA. Also, more flights being “full” may have to do with the fact that airlines are grounding a lot of planes and cancelling routes to save money and consolidate bodies onto planes.

  15. BorkBorkBork says:

    Let’s give a big thank you to the TSA! Who knew there was a correlation between touching people’s junks and planes staying aloft. Science…the mind boggles.

    (The only ‘action’ I ever get is when I pass a security checkpoint. :foreveralone:)

  16. Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

    Another news story running today showed that airline travel has literally become 100 times safer since the 1960s. One hundred times safer. In the past decade (2002-2011) there have been 153 fatalities among 7.1 billion passengers — that’s about one chance in 46 million of being killed on any given flight.

    Meanwhile, the chance of being killed on a 100-mile roadtrip is about 1 in a million.

    But the people who have “fear of flying” are considered normal, and people who have “fear of riding in a car” are weird.

  17. thomwithanh says:

    “Considering that about 2.9 billion people fly the friendly skies each year…”

    Since United is now fully merged with Continental, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say “about 2.9 billion people ‘work hard, fly right’ each year?”

  18. kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

    I’m not convinced.

    Sure, I didn’t die in a plane crash in 2011, but I also didn’t die in a crash in any preceding year. Clearly this “safest ever” BS is being spread by the FAA because the airlines are bribing them to say it.

    *adjusts tinfoil hat*