Too Scared to Fly? Latest Plane Tragedies Elevate Aerophobia, But Experts Say Air Travel Is Safe

July 28, 2014  |  

The odds that you’ll die in a plane crash are 11 million to one. Yet within the past four months, we’ve had four deadly plane tragedies: The missing Malaysian Airline 370 flight, the missile-struck MH17 flight, the TransAsia crash in Taiwan, and now the investigation is underway to find out what happened to an Air Algerie flight that went down in Mali. Aerophobia, as you can imagine, is now at its peak.

“You start with fear, and then you have evidence that the fear is correct. What makes it over the top is when you don’t know why the airplane crashed,” said George Everly, a psychologist at John Hopkins Medical Center.

As contradictory as it may seem with flight anxieties rising, aviation-industry pundits say that flying is “safer than it’s ever been.”

“Having three accidents together doesn’t tell you anything about safety,” Paul Hayes, director of safety at Ascend, an aviation consultant firm tells The Wall Street Journal. “It’s about the long-term trend. Airline safety is improving, and it is generally improving faster than the industry is expanding.”

The stats say that 2012 was the safest year on record with one accident per 4.8 million flights. Compare this to 2009’s one for every 1.3 million. Three years later, 2012 had a global accident rate of 3.2, lower than 2008’s 4.8, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s most recent report. The deadliest year for air travel was 2010 with 943 reported deaths. This year has seen 644 deaths so far. Because of these numbers, experts argue that air travel has become safer in recent years.

The downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine, for example, which was reportedly struck by a missile, had nothing to do with faulty plane machinery. Experts say “recent air disasters don’t reflect any major systemic problems with safety,” WSJ adds.

Though that may be true, safety is not only defined by functioning equipment, but other factors such as making foresighted judgments for air travel. Was it, for instance, really a bright idea to fly over a war zone?

Still, analysts say that the Flight 17 disaster could not have been prevented. “No matter how well you train your crew, they can’t prevent such an incident,” said Martin Eran-Tasker, a safety expert at the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines.

Though Malaysia Airlines, TransAsia, and Air Algerie have lost 537, 58, and 116 lives, respectively, Tony Tyler, CEO of International Air Transport Association, agrees “flying remains safe.” (Of course.)

Do you agree?

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