Plane facts

We shouldn't let recent events blind us to the fact that flying is one of the safest forms of transport.

Fran O'Leary

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Topics Politics

According to UK airports operator British Airports Authority (BAA), there have been 12 percent fewer passengers in the seven UK airports run by the company in October 2001, compared to the same month last year (1). But, despite recent events, flying remains one of the safest forms of transport.

Twelve people died for each 100million air journeys taken in the UK between 1987 and 1996 – while 34 people died for each 100million journeys by water during the same period (2). Even in the USA, where air travel is more common, there were 5.96 accidents for every 100,000 hours of flight in 2000, and 6.49 accidents for every 100,000 hours of flight in 1999 (5).

An hour spent driving, or even walking, has more potential dangers than an hour spent on a plane: there were eight casualties for every 100million hours of air travel in the UK between 1987 and 1996, but 1463 casualties for every 100million hours of car travel (3).

If you drive for an hour, it seems that you are about 100 times more likely to get hurt than if you fly for an hour. People have died in the UK in every year between 1987 and 1996 while using cars, bicycles, vans and trains. But in six out of these 10 years, nobody died while flying (4).

Of course, vans, bicycles and cars are much more likely to come into contact with other vehicles than are aeroplanes – and such collisions increase the likelihood of fatalities and accidents. Also, if an aeroplane does crash you have much less chance of getting out alive than if your car crashes or your boat sinks. But the statistics suggest that, overall, air travel may be less dangerous than we fear.

Despite the 11 September terrorist attacks and the recent New York plane crash, London’s Stansted airport and Glasgow and Edinburgh airports have all seen a rise in air-user numbers over the past two months (6). But while cheap domestic and European flights might be on the rise, many businesses have cancelled transatlantic flights and international meetings in the wake of 11 September.

Maybe it’s time to grit our teeth, and take to the air once again.

Read on:

Flying lows, by Peter Smith

Fear goes sky-high, by Jennie Bristow

The fear within, by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick

spiked-issue: After 11 September

(1) BAA sees no pick-up in air users, BBC News Online, 12 November, 2001

(2) Transport safety consultation paper, Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions, Annex 1: Present transport safety arrangements and statistics, April 13, 1999, Table A1.2: passenger fatalities

(3) Transport safety consultation paper, Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions, Annex 1: Present transport safety arrangements and statistics, April 13, 1999, Table A1.4: Passenger casualties

(4) Transport safety consultation paper, Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions, Annex 1: Present transport safety arrangements and statistics, April 13, 1999, Table A1.5: Passenger fatalities (listed by year)

(5) National Transportation Safety Board, Table 10: Accidents, fatalities, and rates, 1982 through 2000, US general aviation

(6) BAA sees no pick-up in air users, BBC News Online, 12 November, 2001. The rise is attributed to the competition between low cost airlines since September the 11

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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Topics Politics

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