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How safe is flying ?

There is always a hidden fear about flying in most people whenever they are reminded of an air crash. Air accidents are hot news and unfortunately they are given very extensive coverage by the media. Boeing states that there are about 25 million fearful flyers in the USA but after the September 11th tragedy, the figure may be higher.

From my many years of experience in the air, I would like to say that flying is still very safe. In a FAA survey, it was stated that Airline flying in the United States is one of the safest in the world, barring terrorism. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology statistician, Arnold Barnett noted that the death risk per domestic jet flight was 1 in 2 million during the decade from 1967 to 1976 but he estimated that the risk passing the millennium to be in the region of 1 in 8 million.

The NTSB's figures for 1996 showed that scheduled airlines had a fatal accident rate of 0.026 per 100,000 aircraft hours. Using the 1996 fatal accident rate, statistically, a passenger would have to fly 24 hours a day for over 438 years before being involved in a fatal accident.

Barnett's calculation of the risk rate from 1990 to 1996 equates to having to pick a flight at random every day for 21,000 years to be in a fatal accident.

Another way of evaluating the safety of Airline flying is to compare it to driving. According to the National Safety Council, scheduled Airlines had a death rate of 0.04 per hundred million passenger miles in 1994. The same rate for automobile was 0.86, over 21 times greater!

The Council's latest fatality totals for 1995 show 175 death in US airline accidents. By contrast, five times as many people died in boating accidents and accidents involving bicycles. Nearly 10 times as many people died in swimming accidents and 250 times more people, nearly 42,000 were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 1995.

How safe is flying on the Boeing 777 ?

Flying in the Boeing 777 is very safe as the aircraft is well maintained. (Please read my article on safety of modern airplanes.)  The Airlines, aircraft manufacturers and Government regulators jointly worked out detailed, scheduled maintenance programs designed to avoid and detect any problems before they become serious.

Flight crews and on-board computer systems monitor aircraft performance for any problems, and those problems that pose a safety threat are corrected before further flight.

Airplane makers anticipated potential equipment failures when they designed the Boeing 777 and have built in layers of redundant, back up safety features for all key airplane systems.

Even with one engine operating, the Boeing 777 is capable of flying for at least three hours without any problems. That is flying further than from New York to Havana in Cuba. However, for safety reasons, some Airlines are operating the aircraft within a maximum of two hours range from any suitable airports if it need to divert on single engine.

The Boeing 777 is also the first aircraft to be completely designed by computers from the start. It is the most thoroughly tested airplane in history. For instance, the fan blade of the engine was deliberately failed during the trial and it continued to run without any stability problems. The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, David R Hinson was quoted as saying, "The Boeing 777 is absolutely safe ..."

Of course, the safety of air travel cannot be said to be 100 per cent absolute. A walk through the park, to the school or even to work has its inherent risks. But as a general rule, safety in travel ranks something like this:-

 

Ranking Mode of Transport
1 Train Journey
2 Sea Cruises
3 Buses/Coaches
4 Air Travel
5 Bicycles
6 Motor Cars
7 Motor Cycles

 

As for long-range travel, flying on the Boeing 777 is still very safe in any established Airline.

Click here to find out the mortality rate on any routes and in any Airlines.

Click here to find out the accident rate statistics of the World's Commercial aircraft and Airlines.


Recently I spotted this in the Reader's Digest "Facts of Life". Its researchers have confirmed that, before any new model of commercial aircraft that is allowed into the air, its manufacturer is required to demonstrate the plane's ability to withstand bird strikes by putting it through the "chicken gun" test.

According to Steve Pettigrew of BAE Systems - maker of passenger jet - dead birds or fake gelatin birds are fired at various parts of the plane, such as engines and windscreens, through a large cannon and their impact is filmed on high speed cameras.

Planes that sustained damage that could endanger a flight, such as cracked window or engine failure, have to be redesigned.


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