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An Air France A340 jetliner skidded off a runway while landing in Toronto. Remarkably, all 309 people onboard survived as the flight attendants and crew helped them evacuate the aircraft in less than two minutes.
With this accident, we find it appropriate to discuss the safety of air travel, especially for those individuals that are considering a flight attendant career.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about safety.
How safe is air travel?
Commercial jet aviation is an exceptionally safe way to get from here to there. More than three million people around the world fly safely on commercial aircraft every day. In 2000, the world's commercial jet airlines carried approximately 1.09 billion people on 18 million flights, while suffering only 20 fatal accidents.
How often do serious accidents happen?
They are exceedingly rare. The risk of being involved in a commercial jet aircraft accident where there are multiple fatalities is approximately one in three million. To put this in perspective, you’d have to fly once every day for more than 8,200 years to accumulate three million flights. But even though fatal jet accidents are rare, the aviation community world-wide is continuing to work together to reduce them.
So is flying getting safer or riskier?
Commercial aviation has always been the safest mode of long- distance travel. But it’s gotten even safer. Thirty years ago, fatal accidents on commercial jetliners occurred approximately once in every 140 million miles flown. Today, it’s 1.4 billion miles flown for every fatal accident - a ten-fold safety improvement.
What’s the risk of flying compared to driving?
In the United States, it’s 22 times safer flying in a commercial jet than traveling by car, according to a 1993-95 study by the U.S. National Safety Council comparing accident fatalities per million passenger-miles traveled. The number of U.S. highway deaths in a typical six-month period is about 21,000 which roughly equals all commercial jet fatalities worldwide since the dawn of jet aviation four decades ago. In fact, fewer people have died in commercial airplane accidents in America over the past 60 years than are killed in U.S. auto accidents in a typical three-month period. In 2000, there were 41,800 traffic accident fatalities in the US compared to 878 commercial airplane fatalities that same year.
What causes commercial jets to crash?
There’s rarely a single cause. Usually it’s a combination of things. One reason accidents are so rare is that commercial aviation has so many redundant, back-up systems to keep a problem from becoming serious. Typically this means that before a problem escalates into an accident, safety experts say, a series of increasingly unlikely events must occur, one after another. It’s sort of like having all the holes line up in randomly selected, stacked slices of Swiss cheese: perhaps not impossible, but the chances are extremely remote. International teams are currently studying data in order to identify the most significant accident causes, and, importantly, strategies for preventing them.
What’s the riskiest portion of a flight?
Takeoff and the climb to cruising altitude, and the descent and landing of an airplane are the two most risk-prone periods of a flight. In overly simplistic terms, takeoff demands the most from an airplane in terms of engine thrust and structural integrity, while final approach and landing demand the most of the cockpit crew. About three-fourths of all serious accidents occur during these two relatively brief phases of a flight.
Where’s the safest seat on a jet during a crash?
There are some who believe it’s safer to be seated near the wings or in the rear of the cabin. However, there’s no evidence that any one part of an aircraft is safer than another. Also, it is best to listen to the pre-take-off safety briefing on each flight, as well as all in-flight announcements.