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What are the chances of dying in a plane crash in your lifetime of flying?

What are the chances of dying in a plane crash in your lifetime of flying?

Old Jul 21, 10, 11:28 pm
  #1  
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Exclamation What are the chances of dying in a plane crash in your lifetime of flying?

I was talking with a friend and explained that I have probably taken 1000 commercial flights (aka a leg - one take-off & landing) over the last 12 years and he said its lucky I haven't died in a crash.

I explained that its better than 1 in a million to die in a plane crash, but he reminded me of "repeated trials" - where if you take the same improbable chance many times, eventually it will happen.

So I decided to calculate the chance:

According to this site the chances are 1 in 9.2 million per flight if you fly one of the 25 safest airlines.

http://www.planecrashinfo.com/cause.htm

Brushing off my first year statistics gave me this equation:

1 - ((9,200,000 -1) /9,200,000)^1,000
Which equals
0.000108689751, which is basically 1 in 10,000 over the last 12 years.

This is not going to change my life, just thought it was an interesting statistic. It has lots of unaccounted variables - short hops vs. long flights, safety of the airline, type of aircraft, mainline vs regional, etc... and I am sure you could get a similar risk for your chances of dying in a car crash, slipping in the shower, etc, etc...


Please feel free to check my math and compute your own odds -- change the 1,000 to your number of flights and plug it into google calculator:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...=&oq=&gs_rfai=
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Old Jul 21, 10, 11:39 pm
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You raise a good point. A one in 10,000 chance of dying in a plane crash in your lifetime is a not trivial probability.

(I used to work for a consulting company with over 10,000 employees, many of whom traveled constantly for years on end, and, sure enough, when the AA plane to the Dominican Republic crashed in Queens, NY, one of the company's employees was on board. It was bound to happen sooner or later.)
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Old Jul 22, 10, 12:11 am
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It's hard to come up with an exact estimate for a couple reasons. Obviously as you sort of mentioned, flying somewhere like Africa is going to be less safe than in North America. Other factors though include flight miles flown rather than number of flights, but this is also not a linear variable because takeoffs and landings are accepted to be the most dangerous times of flight. A 15 hour LAX-SYD is going to have the same number of takeoffs and landings as a 30 minute hop in a puddle jumper.

That brings me to the next factor. One could make an argument that big, modern jets are safer than commuter props. Are those 1000 flights on mostly A380s and 777s, or are they on Q400s and Twin Otters?

In the end though, it really doesn't matter. The odds of dieing in a car accident on the way to the airport so greatly surpass the odds of dieing in a plane crash that it's not even worth considering.
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Old Jul 22, 10, 12:19 am
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You are going to die of something. It is very likely to be from an illness. It is very unlikely to be from a plane crash, from a car crash, from murder or from a fatal spider bite. But it could happen.

Your maths are correct though I suspect the risk is not always equal on every flight. I suspect you have more chance of a crash when you have adverse weather, a plane with a poor track record, or an airport which has complications.
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Old Jul 22, 10, 1:41 am
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I like the 80/20 rule. I just assume that there is a 20% chance I won't be getting off any flight I take in one piece. Same for road travel, crossing the road, turning on the stove, telling the Mrs. I have last minute travel, etc. That said, the time or method of my demise does not play a factor in my decision to live and enjoy life to its fullest. So, yeah... 20%
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Old Jul 22, 10, 3:57 am
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Originally Posted by dabears1020 View Post
brings me to the next factor. One could make an argument that big, modern jets are safer than commuter props. Are those 1000 flights on mostly A380s and 777s, or are they on Q400s and Twin Otters?
Worth pointing out- it's not so much the aircraft that's the issue here. Smaller aircraft are generally flown with junior (read: inexperienced, younger) crew, thus increasing risk of pilot error. Recent accidents on regionals such as Comair 5191, Colgan 3407, PSA 2495 etc. confirm this.
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Old Jul 22, 10, 6:10 am
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you should stack rank that probability with other risks, to get a proper prospective.

first should be the probability of dying of a non-illness.

then throw in car , ski , hunting, boating, shark attack, lightning,home , work , drug overdose, and so forth.

a quick look found this:

http://www.anesi.com/accdeath.htm

which is for 1999.car vs auto is about 40 to 1.
by 2006:

http://www.notsoboringlife.com/rambl...idental-death/

air missed the top 10.

since larger autos are safer by factor of 2 or 3, i went out and bought a pair of the largest vehicles available.
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Old Jul 22, 10, 6:35 am
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Originally Posted by belfordrocks View Post
Worth pointing out- it's not so much the aircraft that's the issue here. Smaller aircraft are generally flown with junior (read: inexperienced, younger) crew, thus increasing risk of pilot error. Recent accidents on regionals such as Comair 5191, Colgan 3407, PSA 2495 etc. confirm this.
I agree 100%, prop "puddle jumpers" in the winter is a bigger risk because:
1) Prop planes fly at slower at lower altitudes, increasing the chances of running into very bad weather (e.g. ice)
2) The flights are run by regionals instead of mainline airlines (see documentary on
3) The flights tend to be flown by more junior and inexperienced pilots.

Not that it stops me from taking the flights though, but I do look for CRJs over Dash-8s.


Originally Posted by slawecki View Post
you should stack rank that probability with other risks, to get a proper prospective.

first should be the probability of dying of a non-illness.

then throw in car , ski , hunting, boating, shark attack, lightning,home , work , drug overdose, and so forth.

a quick look found this:

http://www.anesi.com/accdeath.htm

which is for 1999.car vs auto is about 40 to 1.
by 2006:

http://www.notsoboringlife.com/rambl...idental-death/

air missed the top 10.

since larger autos are safer by factor of 2 or 3, i went out and bought a pair of the largest vehicles available.
I think that those statistics hold in general but not for people who fly a lot - like many here on FT. This is just as the chances of dying by electric shock are very low, but go up signifigantly if you are an electrician.
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Old Jul 22, 10, 7:05 am
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Originally Posted by falco View Post
I think that those statistics hold in general but not for people who fly a lot - like many here on FT. This is just as the chances of dying by electric shock are very low, but go up signifigantly if you are an electrician.
Yes, but consider that if the OP keeps that level of flying up for 50 years, he's still only facing a 1 in 200 chance of biting it in a plane crash. That is trivial. The odds of something else killing him in that time frame are overwhelmingly greater.
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Old Jul 22, 10, 7:48 am
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I've never been comfortable with the "diminishing odds" concept, preferring to venture forth each day anew, considering that when I board a big silver bird, the odds of uncontrolled descent into terrain/water remain the same as they were yesterday, long.

Now, when it comes to prop-driven commuter birds operated by modest shell corporations, and flown by flight crews who appear disheveled, nerdy and all too young, I consider the odds much shorter, reach to touch my once efficacious St. Christoper, and cross myself an extra time. RJs fall into the in between.

Long ago, I compiled a modest log on landings (a handful at night), cat shots conventional rolling takeoffs, and comings and goings by helo aboard/from one of Uncle Sam's seagoing air terminals (an old one, left over from WWII, far less "safe" than today's behemoths). Contemplating those odds makes it unlikely that I'd seek to attempt those evolutions again.

On the other hand, death or disfigurement are far more likely whilst driving to the airport.
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Old Jul 22, 10, 8:00 am
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ok. So what are the odds of your plane being hit on the ground by another plane?
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Old Jul 22, 10, 8:06 am
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Originally Posted by mecabq View Post
(I used to work for a consulting company with over 10,000 employees, many of whom traveled constantly for years on end, and, sure enough, when the AA plane to the Dominican Republic crashed in Queens, NY, one of the company's employees was on board. It was bound to happen sooner or later.)
But how many died in car crashes or from heat attacks in the same time?

Some companies have policy that senior executives should not fly on the same plane (governments and royal families do the same thing) yet they wouldn't think twice about sharing a car - despite the risks of a fatal accident being much greater.
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Old Jul 22, 10, 8:16 am
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Originally Posted by dabears1020 View Post
flying somewhere like Africa is going to be less safe than in North America


Geography has nothing to do with it. If you fly an unsafe carrier you will be less safe, regardless of where in the world the carrier is based.
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Old Jul 22, 10, 8:27 am
  #14  
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Originally Posted by slawecki View Post
since larger autos are safer by factor of 2 or 3, i went out and bought a pair of the largest vehicles available.
I didn't realize these were available yet:



How much did those sweet rides set you back?
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Old Jul 22, 10, 8:46 am
  #15  
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Originally Posted by falco View Post
I was talking with a friend and explained that I have probably taken 1000 commercial flights (aka a leg - one take-off & landing) over the last 12 years and he said its lucky I haven't died in a crash.

I explained that its better than 1 in a million to die in a plane crash, but he reminded me of "repeated trials" - where if you take the same improbable chance many times, eventually it will happen.

So I decided to calculate the chance:

According to this site the chances are 1 in 9.2 million per flight if you fly one of the 25 safest airlines.

http://www.planecrashinfo.com/cause.htm

Brushing off my first year statistics gave me this equation:

1 - ((9,200,000 -1) /9,200,000)^1,000
Which equals
0.000108689751, which is basically 1 in 10,000 over the last 12 years.

This is not going to change my life, just thought it was an interesting statistic. It has lots of unaccounted variables - short hops vs. long flights, safety of the airline, type of aircraft, mainline vs regional, etc... and I am sure you could get a similar risk for your chances of dying in a car crash, slipping in the shower, etc, etc...


Please feel free to check my math and compute your own odds -- change the 1,000 to your number of flights and plug it into google calculator:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...=&oq=&gs_rfai=
When you consider that there are about 10 million flights per day including all GA, military, cargo and commercial, the odds are amazingly low. There are about 4 million commercial flights per day worldwide of which there is only a crash every 5 months or so world wide, it still makes for low odds, especially for the infrequent flier..apparently the odds of winning the lottery are higher, as are the odds of being struck by lightening on a TUESDAY..and of course the odds of being killed in a car crash are much much higher along with dying from food poisoning on the road or in some cities, getting murdered.

Even a frequent flier has very low odds, ballparking about 1 in 460 million..taking over 10000 flights still makes for miniscule odds, but more than the non frequent flier.

I think the odds of an INCIDENT are much higher though...engine failures, tire blowouts, decompressions, diversions, crazy pax trying to open the door or get into the cockpit, hydraulic leaks.

I myself was in one tire blowout, countless go arounds, one medical diversion, one aborted take off, alot of very very hard landings that opened bins and dropped masks and may or may not have damaged the plane, and one partial hydralic failure forcing us to land without flaps.
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