Is Airline Travel Safe?

Is Airline Travel Safe?

With todays disappearance of Air France Flight 447 off the coast of Brazil, many have once again begun to question the safety of air travel. Is it safe to fly? I myself have often wondered at 30,000 feet, how safe am I flying in a 200 foot, 513 lb airborne device with no visible support? Historically, since the birth of planes, aircraft have crashed, often with serious consequences. This is because of the unforgiving nature of flight, where a relatively insubstantial medium, air, supports a significant mass through dynamically active technological means. Should this support fail, there is limited opportunity for a positive outcome. The Wright Flyer itself nearly crashed on the day of its historic flight, sustaining some damage when landing. Three days before, on a previous flight attempt, Wilbur Wright over controlled the aircraft in pitch and crashed it on takeoff, causing minor damage in the first known case of pilot-induced oscillation. Despite these historical facts, aviation safety has come a long way in over one hundred years of airplane implementation. The two major airline manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, have both placed huge emphasis on the use of aviation safety equipment, and made safety a major selling point — realizing that a poor safety record in the aviation industry is a threat to their own corporate survival. The Airbus A330 which disappeared today has had a good, but not flawless, safety record. Indeed, until today the Airbus A330 had an impeccable safety record with not a single fatal incident involving passengers since it first went into commercial operation in 1993. In general, when measured on a passenger-distance calculation, air travel is the safest form of transportation available. As a comparison, for every billion kilometers traveled, trains have a fatality rate 12 times larger than air travel, while automobiles have a fatality rate 62 times larger. According to the National Transportation Safety board, in the US each year, there are about 40,000 deaths per year in automobile accidents vs. about 200 in air transport. Also in the US, 1 out of 6800 drivers dies in an auto accident. The rate for airline passengers is 1 in 1.6 million. This equates into the fact that per passenger mile, air travel is safer by more than a factor of two. That said, certainly incidents will occur in all methods of transportation. There is no perfectly safe means of conveyance. Nevertheless, when compared with other means of transportation, air travel is safe. It only appears less so due to the media reporting, which clamors on the fact that more people are often involved in the incident at one time when compared to the fewer numbers involved in other means of transportation. In closing thoughts, be assured that despite todays incident, air travel does remain safe and as future technologies advance it will likely only become safer.

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By Rob / Editor

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on Jun 01, 2009

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