Yesterday was not a good day for small planes and jets. A twin-propeller Piper Seneca crashed while attempting to land in Upland, CA, and a Cessna Citation jet crashed in Lake Michigan five minutes after takeoff. Two thoughts struck me: One, that these small planes seem to crash a lot, and Two, if number one were true, it wouldn’t be news, so it can’t be true. So just what is the truth? Let’s look at the numbers.
Your chances of being killed on a commercial airline flight – known as Part 121 of the Federal Aviation Regulations – are about 1 in 53 million: One would have to fly once a day for 100,000 years just to have a 50% chance of that happening.
Airplane crashes get between 150 to 200 times more front-page coverage than other more common causes of death precisely because they are so uncommon.
One hundred fifteen people die every single day in the US from automobile crashes. Your odds of being killed in an automobile accident in one year? One in six thousand. That’s why automobile crashes, unless the Governor of say, New Jersey, was involved, don’t make the news.
Including general aviation with commercial flights, 120 people per year are killed. That’s about one third the number of children under age 5 who drown in swimming pools.
Maybe we should just leave the car at home and take up flying lessons.