Apr 25 2008

How Safe Is It To Fly?

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 6:03 am

One of the first questions I’ve gotten when I’ve told people I’m taking flying lessons is some variation of them asking: “is it safe?” Or, the statement I’m sure most pilots get frequently: “I’m never getting into one Accident Statisticsof those planes, they are so unsafe“. My wife still vows to never fly with me (although she’s already buckling I can tell). Naturally, I’ve personally felt that general aviation planes are safe (otherwise the government wouldn’t allow us to fly), but I also love to prove people wrong and I knew there must be data to back me up. Thankfully the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) keeps incredibly detailed records about every aviation accident – big and small, fatal and non-fatal.

The AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) Air Safety Foundation prepares an annual summary report of this data from the NTSB – called the “Nall Report”. The most recent Nall Report shows that general aviation is the safest it has been in its history. In an estimated 24+ million flight hours in 2006, there was 1,319 total accidents, 273 of those being fatal accidents. I found this statistic to be very telling in that only 1 in 5 aviation accidents are fatal (much less than what my friends/family seem to think). To put that into Accident Ratesperspective, that means for every 100,000 hours of general aviation flight time, there are approximately 6.32 accidents (and only 1.26 being fatal).

For the heck of it, I took this summary stat one step further and translated it to 1 accident per every 15,823 flight hours, or 1 fatal accident per 79,365 flight hours. In realistic terms (albeit hypothetical), if I flew 2 hours a day, every day for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t statistically have a fatal accident for 108 years! I think I’m comfortable flying! (Note – I KNOW this is NOT a statistically sound way of evaluating this data, but I like fun-with-numbers.)

The report has a ton of other great information and I highly recommend reading it. The ASF has other great articles and reports well worth reading as well.

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