Air Travel – Safe or Dangerous

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 Life

Is the safest mode of transportation really safe?

Every one of us love to travel by Air as it’s the fastest mode of travel available to man in this age for destinations near and afar.

Before venturing into our main topic, let’s throw some light on the history of Airplanes. In Modern Age, Sir George Clayley was the first person in the world to set forth the concept of airplanes in 1799. He built several models of fixed wing aircrafts in 1803 and followed by building a passenger carrying flight in 1853. As we all know it was the wright brothers’ development of the World’s first sustained and controlled heavier than air powered flight in 1903 which led humankind to embrace the idea of Airplanes a mode of transportation. Following World War I, Airplanes increased in popularity all around the world due to the speed, maneuverability and precision that it offered and what happened next is pretty much known to all of us.

While taking into account the nearly 3000 fatalities brought about by the World Trade Center attack on September 11, there has been only two other incidents which resulted in 500 or more fatalities in the world. This proves that apart from the recent accidents of Transasia flight 235 and the two Malaysian Airlines flights and the Air Asia flight 8501, air travel is still the safest mode of travel to destinations near and far.

Now, let us look at the real reasons which caused the 1015 approx. (from 1950-2010) fatal incidents involving airplanes in the world.

Some of the most prominent factors compromising flight safety are:

  • Pilot error due to weather related phenomena or brought about by some type of mechanical failure.
  • Other human error which includes air traffic controller errors, improper loading of aircraft, fuel contamination and improper maintenance procedures.
  • Sabotaging of airplane through use of explosive devices, shoot downs and hijackings
  • Possible situations where individual factors compromise the safety of airplane causing it to crash.


Hence the root cause for airplane fatalities is human error which can only be rectified through a strict training routine.

It’s also interesting to note that most of the airplane fatalities are caused during the cruising period of the fight which can be described as the longest stage in the air travel wherein airplane cruises at more or less constant altitude. And the accidents which occur during the final approach and landing stages aren’t of fatal nature most of the time.

It’s said that the odds of being on an airplane which results in at least one fatality is:

  • Out of 78 major world airlines – 1 in 3.4 million
  • Top 39 world airlines with best accident rates – 1 in 10 million

Also, the odds of being killed in a single airline flight are:

  • Out of 78 major airlines – 1 in 4.7 million
  • Top 39 world airlines with best accident rates – 1 in 19.8 million

So it is clear from the above statistic that airline accidents are either rare or not of general occurrence. Nowadays most of the major airlines have increased the flight length as a long haul aircraft performing only one or two cycles (here cycles refer to flights) per day are less likely to be involved in an accident than a short range aircraft  performing of the order of ten short cycles per day.

However since the aircrafts nowadays carry more passengers than it has before, the number of fatalities is bound to increase. There are incidents of aircrafts disappearing without a trace; the most recent example of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 which disappeared without a trace over South China Sea and of Air Asia flight 8501 to Singapore from Indonesia which disappeared in stormy weather. But these cannot take away the fact that 2014 was a very good year for aviation in general, with very low accident rates when compared to the years before. Hence, it is safe to say that despite all the unfortunate incidents, air travel has never been safer.


written by
Jerrin Issac