Sunday, April 29, 2007

How dangerous is flying?

I went to Japan for a training in 2004 and that journey took four (4) airline trips to and fro because of stop overs. All my life, I have only made eight (8) trips on airplanes. These were all work-related trips of course because as you know flying is expensive. I would be lying if I say that I did not fear flying. I dread the take-off in particular because it's when one can feel all the shaking and vibrations as the airplane gathers acceleration and thrust. This is most frightening the first time I flew which was in a Cathay Pacific airline. I have talked to people who swear to me that they would avoid flying at all cost. They associate it most explicitly with fatal crashes. This limiting belief may be unfounded but people like them can be swayed not by facts and figures.

There is always talk on how flying is the safest way to travel. But what really are the facts? Is it really safer to fly than to drive? According to accident statistics compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board of the US, the odds of being killed on a single trip on an airliner is 1 in 52.6 million. Comparing this figure to the odds of being killed on a single trip on automobiles, which is 1 in 7.6 million, manifests how flying is indeed much safer. However, distinctions were made between an airliner against a commuter plane. The difference is mainly on the number of passenger seats with a threshold of 10 seats to be considered an airliner. Otherwise, the plane is classified as a commuter plane. The latter proved to be more dangerous with the odds being 1 in 581,395 that a single trip will kill a person. For this particular case, driving would be preferred better.
Ranking the safest airlines of the world based on factors such as the number of flights and accident rates, Delta Airlines of the US is 1st among 87 while China Airlines got last place. Philippine Airlines is at 74th place with a total of 4 fatal events including the most recent in 1994.
There is certainly some dangers in flying as there is in any other forms of transportation. Choosing not to fly just because of a wrong impression due to media hype on plane crashes will be a poor choice. It would take weeks if not months to reach another country by ship and even there will be no guarantee that the ship is not going to sink. Or one may just opt not to travel at all and miss a great opportunity to see and experience a whole new world. Why lose a chance when the facts still speak of how flying in an airline is still the safest way to travel? Superman will surely agree.
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