Constant checks and backup systems: why airplanes are one of the safest modes of transportation
You've probably heard that you're much more likely to die in a car accident than in an airplane crash - and that's a fact. According to the National Safety Council, there were 39,107 car accident deaths in the United States in 2019. In the same year, 257 people died in commercial airplane crashes around the world.
"Aviation accidents are rare. In 2022, there were five fatal accidents among 32.2 million flights," said Willie Walsh, Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). "This tells us that flying is one of the safest activities a person can do," Travel+Leisure magazine writes.
In the early days of aviation, flying was much riskier than it is today. "When airplanes were in their infancy, they were made of cloth and wood. There are real stories of wings and tails separating from the fuselage after a pilot encountered significant turbulence," says Dr. Dan Babb, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a former airline pilot, in an interview with Travel + Leisure.
Although safety had improved by mid-century, flying was still relatively risky.
"Major accidents were once surprisingly common. In 1985, a major accident happened about every two weeks," former pilot Patrick Smith tells T+L. - "Today, we may not see one for months or even years.
Today, there are countless systems designed to ensure flight safety, from fire suppression systems to collision avoidance to advanced ground proximity warning systems.
"In addition, most aviation systems are designed with redundancy in mind - that is, if one system fails, another can serve as a backup," says Patrick Smith.
And all these systems are regularly and thoroughly tested, especially in the United States under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). There are routine checks and unannounced inspections. This process is much more rigorous than for any other form of public transportation.