Suppose that I start taking long-distance airline flights, and that after each flight I immediately jump on to another aircraft that takes off for another faraway destination - and continue doing this, indefinitely.
In other words, I'm going to live the rest of my life travelling on airliners.
What's going to kill me first:
- an airline accident or incident
- excessive radiation exposure
- some other flying-related health risk
- old age?
If the answer is old age, then let's suppose for the sake of the question that I'm also going to live indefinitely, until one of the other factors does me in.
I'm only interested in risks that are specific to flying. I suspect that breaking my neck falling down the steps or choking to death on an in-flight peanut might be higher, but they don't count, because I use stairs and eat peanuts regularly anyway.
I guess exposure to infectious diseases (and other risks associated with the airline cabin environment) should count, since air travel does increase those significantly.
The health risks of an airline food diet are excluded though, especially if I decide to fly economy class. So is dying of despair.
However, the risk of severe food poisoning should be included.
Finally, I'm only flying on scheduled flights on reputable airlines.
As you can probably gather, the device of the hypothetical permanent travel is simply a way of framing the risks for the sake of comparison. I'm not really interested in what it might be like to fly forever, but in the quantum of risks in airline travel.
On the other hand there presumably come a point where the frequency of travel means that some risks become disproportionately more significant (e.g. eating 70 airline meals a year might be simply unpleasant, but eating 700 would be to suffer from a genuinely unhealthy diet).
However I can't think of any risks of that kind that would start to increase at a rate greater than frequency of flying, within any normal flying frequencies.
Future risk changes
I assume that flying is going to continue to become ever-safer, which could mean that the risk of an incident or accident will fall over time while (say) health risks don't. For the sake of a fair comparison, let's say that even into the far future the risks will remain as they are today.