How Rare is it for a Plane to Crash?

How rare is it for a plane to crash? One question that you really don’t want to face when planning for a trip is “how safe is your preferred mode of transport?”

Imagine you’re 30,000 feet in the air, cruising above the clouds, and suddenly, a thought crosses your mind: “How safe is this plane?”

It’s a question that many of us have pondered at some point, especially when turbulence hits.

The fact is that air transport is one of the safest modes of transport despite some high deadly crashes.

In this post, we will answer the question of the probability of an aircraft crashing and go into detail on every topic covering the safety of air travel.

How Rare is it for a Plane to Crash?

How Rare is it for a Plane to Crash?

Plane crashes are extremely rare. Here are some statistics to illustrate this:

There was a 1 in 3.37 billion chance of dying in a commercial airline plane crash between 2012-2016.

There was a 1 in 20 million chance of being on a commercial airline flight experiencing a fatal accident from 2012-2016.

98.6% of crashes did not result in a fatality – Of the 140 plane accidents during 2012-2016, only two involved fatalities (1.4%).

In 2022, there were five fatal accidents involving loss of life to passengers and crew.

This is reduced from seven in 2021 and an improvement on the five-year average (2018-2022) which was also seven.

The fatal accident rate improved to 0.16 per million sectors for 2022, from 0.27 per million sectors in 2021, and also was ahead of the five-year fatal accident rate of 0.20.

The accident rate was 1.21 per million sectors, a reduction compared to the rate of 1.26 accidents for the five years 2018-2022, but an increase compared to 1.13 accidents per million sectors in 2021.

Understanding the Travel Industry

Overview of the Global Aviation Industry

How Rare is it for a Plane to Crash?

The global aviation market is segmented by type into commercial aviation (passenger aircraft and freighter), military aviation (combat aircraft and non-combat aircraft), and general aviation (helicopter, piston fixed-wing aircraft, turboprop aircraft, and business jet).

The market size is expected to grow from USD 333.96 billion in 2023 to USD 386.21 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 2.95% during the forecast period (2023-2028).

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the aviation market in many ways, but the industry has started to improve during 2022 and is gradually returning to its pre-COVID-19 level.

Growth of Air Travel Over the Years

Air travel has changed a lot over the past century.

The most recent estimates suggest that demand for air transport will increase by an average of 4.3% per annum over the next 20 years.

If this growth path is achieved by 2036, the air transport industry will then contribute 15.5 million in direct jobs and $1.5 trillion of GDP to the world economy.

Introduction to the Concept of Safety in Aviation

Safety in aviation is defined as “the state in which risks associated with aviation activities, related to, or in direct support of the operation of aircraft, are reduced and controlled to an acceptable level”.

Safety management aims to prevent aircraft accidents and incidents by proactively mitigating safety hazards.

States can manage their safety activities in a more disciplined, integrated, and focused manner by implementing safety management.

New safety dangers and risks occur on a regular basis and must be minimized.

How Rare is it For a Plane to Crash? The Statistical Perspective

How Rare is it for a Plane to Crash?

The Odds of Being in a Plane Crash in Comparison to Other Common Activities and Risks

The odds of being in an accident during a flight is one in 1.2 million, and the chances of that accident being fatal are one in 11 million.

In comparison, your chances of dying in a car crash are one in 5,000.

This means that you are far more likely to die driving to the airport than you are to be involved in a deadly plane accident.

Presenting Historical Crash Statistics Including Data on Fatalities and Injuries

Here are some historical crash statistics including data on fatalities and injuries:

  • In 2020, there were 40 accidents involving large commercial passenger planes. Five of these, including the flight PS752 shot down in Iran and the plane crash in Pakistan, were fatal.
  • In 2019, there were 86 accidents, eight of which were fatal.
  • In 2018, there were 160 accidents, 13 of which were fatal.
  • In 2017, airlines recorded 10 fatal airliner accidents, resulting in 44 occupant fatalities and 35 persons on the ground.
  • In 2016, there were 71 civil aviation accidents in the U.S., resulting in 79 fatalities.

These statistics show that while plane crashes do happen, they are extremely rare.

The number of accidents has been decreasing over the years due to advances in technology and safety measures.

Between 2017 and 2021, the trend of the annual number of accidents decreased.

The highest count recorded within this period was in 2018, with 160 accidents.

In 2020 and 2021, the number of accidents significantly reduced.

However, this period was also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and a significant decrease in traffic of passengers and flights.

Highlighting the Decreasing Trend in Aviation Accidents

How Rare is it for a Plane to Crash?

The continual reduction in accident rates has been achieved by an ongoing commitment of the commercial aviation industry to enable a safe aircraft to be safely operated in a safe air transport system.

A notable part of this success is due to effective regulation, a strong safety culture, and improvements in training.

In fact, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 2022 Safety Report, there was a 9.8% decrease in the global accident rate for last year versus 2020, dropping from 2.14 to 1.93 per million departures.

This was also the lowest accident rate in the last five years.

How Rare is it For a Plane to Crash? Factors Contributing to Air Travel Safety

Aircraft Design and Maintenance

The design and maintenance of an aircraft play a crucial role in air travel safety.

The global aviation market is segmented by type into commercial aviation, military aviation, and general aviation.

Therefore, the market size is expected to grow from USD 333.96 billion in 2023 to USD 386.21 billion by 2028.

The aviation industry has a wide range of access and ground support equipment enabling aircraft engineers to conduct their maintenance work safely.

Design with the user in mind and manufacture with quality materials is beneficial to maximize safety.

Pilot Training and Regulations

Pilot training and regulations are another important factor in air travel safety.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues and enforces regulations and minimum standards covering manufacturing, operating, and maintaining aircraft.

They certify airmen and airports that serve air carriers.

The FAA also operates a network of airport towers, air route traffic control centers, and flight service stations.

Air Traffic Control and Navigation Systems

Air traffic control (ATC) is the main service provided by air traffic controllers.

It is divided into aerodrome control service, approach control service, and area control service.

These services are focused on different phases of the flight, from take-off to landing.

The FAA also builds or installs visual and electronic aids to air navigation5.

Weather Forecasting and Management

Weather forecasting plays a significant role in air travel safety.

The weather conditions can delay and cancel airline flights, and severe weather can turn a flight into a threatening experience.

Airlines rely on specialized weather information to make crucial decisions about flight scheduling, how much fuel to carry, which route to fly, and whether it’s safe to fly at all.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Emergency preparedness and response are essential for managing unlikely events in air travel.

IATA supports airlines with Emergency Response Planning (ERP) best practices to manage and recover from such events.

ERP includes mechanisms to deal with the aftermath and recovery when an aircraft is diverted, disrupted, or lost.

How Rare is it to Survive a Plane Crash?

Contrary to what one might think, the survival rate in plane crashes is actually quite high.

According to the US National Transportation Safety Board, they reviewed aviation accidents from 1983-1999 and found that more than 95% of passengers survived accidents, including 55% in the most serious incidents.

However, the survival rate decreases to 76.6% for accidents that are considered survivable but involve fire, severe injury, or substantial damage to the aircraft.

It’s important to note that these statistics are based on past data and the actual survival rate can vary depending on the specific circumstances of each crash.

How Rare is it Being in a Plane Crash?

The odds of being in a plane crash are incredibly low.

According to a study by Harvard University, the chances of your airplane crashing are one in 1.2 million, and the odds of dying from a crash are one in 11 million.

To put it into perspective, if you took one flight a day, you would need to fly every day for 55,000 years before being involved in a fatal crash.

These statistics show that while plane crashes do happen, they are extremely rare.

What are the Chances that You’ll Die in a Plane Crash?

The chances of dying in a plane crash are extremely low.

According to the National Safety Council, the odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 205,552.

This is less than the odds of dying from a lightning strike or an asteroid impact.

It’s important to note that these statistics are averages and can vary depending on specific circumstances such as the type of flight (commercial vs. private), weather conditions, and more.

How Can I Overcome Flying Phobia?

Overcoming a fear of flying, also known as aviophobia, can be achieved through various methods.

Here are some steps you can take:

Identify Your Triggers: Figure out what frightens you and examine how your anxiety reaction is triggered.

Your goal is to identify your particular triggers, so you can manage your fear when anxiety levels are low.

Educate Yourself: Anxiety thrives on ignorance, and feeds off “what if?” catastrophic thoughts.

But once you become knowledgeable, your “what if?” thoughts are limited by the facts.

Learn about airplanes and how they are designed to handle turbulence.

Anticipate Your Anxiety: Anticipatory anxiety is what we experience in anticipation of fear.

It is often the most intense anxiety you will experience during your flight, but it is not an accurate predictor of how you will feel on the flight.

Separate Fear from Danger: Be sure to label your fear as anxiety.

Tell yourself that anxiety makes your frightening thoughts feel more likely to occur, and remind yourself that feeling anxious doesn’t mean you are in danger.

Use Relaxation Techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing can help manage anxiety levels.

Breathe deeply for four counts, and then release for six.

Plan Your Trip: Being informed, using relaxation techniques and planning your trip are all ways you can overcome your fear and be free to explore the world.

Remember, it’s perfectly okay to seek professional help if your fear of flying is causing significant distress or preventing you from traveling.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often very effective for phobias, including fear of flying.

What is the Safest Seat on a Plane?

The safest seat on a plane can vary depending on the specific circumstances of each crash. However, several studies have provided some insights:

  • A TIME study of 35 years of airline accident data discovered that the middle rear seats had the lowest fatality rate at 28%, compared to 44% for the middle aisle seats.
  • Another study conducted by the University of Greenwich discovered that after a crash, those seated closest to an emergency exit had the best chance of surviving.
  • In 2007, Popular Mechanics studied data from every commercial plane crash in the United States since the 1970s and concluded that sitting near the back of the plane is safer. They calculated a 69% survival percentage for individuals in the back cabin, compared to 49% for those in the front.

It’s important to note that these statistics are averages and can vary depending on specific circumstances such as the type of flight (commercial vs. private), weather conditions, and more.

Is it Safer to Fly at Night or Day?

Flying at night is not necessarily more dangerous than flying during the day.

Pilots use the same radars and navigation systems to fly the plane at night as they do during the day.

However, night time accidents can be more fatal than day time accidents.

This doesn’t mean that night flights are less safe, but rather that the consequences of an accident could potentially be more severe due to factors like reduced visibility.

It’s important to note that all commercial flights, whether day or night, are extremely safe.

Pilots undergo rigorous training and must meet specific requirements for night flying.

They must complete takeoffs and landings at night, as well as night navigation around the airport before landing.

Every 90 days, pilots must make three takeoffs and landings during the night as defined by the FAA.

Both day and night flights are incredibly safe due to the high standards of pilot training and aircraft maintenance.

However, most pilots prefer flying during the day as it allows for easier and safer flying.

What is the Leading Cause of Plane Crashes?

Pilot error is the major cause of plane crashes, accounting for nearly 50% of all aviation accidents.

This can apply to any decision, action, or inaction made by the pilot.

Because pilots are involved in every aspect of the flight, an error can occur at any time.

Pilot errors can be caused by a lack of experience, inadequate training, weariness, or even intoxication.

Mechanical flaws, weather issues, air traffic controller/other ground crew error, and loss of control in flight are all significant causes of plane crashes.

It’s worth noting that many accidents are the result of a mix of these circumstances.

Which Airline Has Never Had a Crash?

There are several airlines that have never had a fatal crash in their history:

  1. Qantas: Named the world’s safest airline of 2020, Qantas has a clean accident record. Although it suffered 12 fatal accidents before 1951 while operating biplanes and floatplanes, as well as operating on behalf of the military during World War II, the airline has never crashed a jet airliner.
  2. Hawaiian Airlines: Operating since 1929, Hawaiian Airlines is the longest living airline never to suffer a single accident. It is also the oldest in the United States to maintain a perfect safety record.
  3. Virgin Atlantic, Australia, and America: Virgin branded airlines have been crash-free for their entire history.
  4. EVA Air: The Taipei-based airline was born in 1989 and has one of the best safety records of any Asian carrier, having never suffered a fatal accident or any hull loss.
  5. Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar: The three major Middle-Eastern carriers rank in the world’s top safest airlines, and none have lost a passenger or crew member in an accident.

It’s important to note that these statistics are based on past data and the actual safety record can vary depending on specific circumstances of each flight.

What is the Safest Airline in America?

The safest airline in America in 2023 is Alaska Airlines.

This ranking is based on factors such as the number of crashes over the past five years, the number of serious incidents over the past two years, audits from aviation’s governing bodies and lead associations, fleet age, expert analysis of pilot training, and COVID protocols.

How Rare is it For a Plane to Crash? Final Thoughts

There you have it, the answer to the question “how rare is it for a plane to crash?” Plane crashes are relatively uncommon.

The likelihood of being in a plane crash is one in 1.2 million, while the likelihood of dying in a crash is one in 11 million.

According to these statistics, while aviation crashes do occur, they are extremely rare.

One of the safest ways of transportation is air travel.

This is owing to stringent safety requirements, ongoing technological and safety advances, and thorough training for pilots and crew members.

So, the next time you board a plane, remember that you’re choosing one of the safest modes of transportation.

Trust the professionals who have committed their careers to your safety, and have a pleasant flight!

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