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I will have my first flight tomorrow. It is my first time that I get into an airplane, and by the time am writing this post, I am feeling anxious and stressed a lot. I even don't talk to anyone as it is the last day of my life and need to live it alone. I read that this is called "fear of flight" or "phobia of airplanes".

I read online on all related sites, that the airplanes are the safest transportation mode. I could die with a car accident while I am getting to airport 20 times more than be killed in an airplane crash.

All sites said that I should understand more about airplanes, and that would release the tension and make me better.

I am thinking to cancel the flight and the 330$ will go through the wind as we say in my country, and not be refunded. I read a lot of things but all are technical, and I didn't understand any single word, especially that I am a person that don't have any mechanical or technical background to understand it.

My doctor told me to start taking "Xanax" and that would help me be fine on my less than 2 hours flight (most of it is over the sea that's why I am more anxious).

Why are airplanes the safest method of transportation? Why aren't ships the safest? Because in 3 years I didn't hear of an airplane that sank.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! It is really difficult to answer your question in the format intended for this site, because there is not a single simple answer to why flying is so safe. Safety is the number one concern within all sectors of aviation, and the statistics speak for themselves. But to explain why flying is so safe in just a couple of paragraphs, without getting technical, would be very difficult. $\endgroup$ – J. Hougaard Sep 27 '17 at 5:50
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    $\begingroup$ There is no need to understand the reasons that make air travel safe, statistics are speaking. Regarding ships, though you may find a counterexample, it's possible to continue breathing and take your time to land after a plane is depressurized due to a leak, but you can sink when you are at 500 NM from the coast and there is a hole in the hull (just one example). If you accept the idea that superstition has no valid grounds, then it's the same for fear of flying. $\endgroup$ – mins Sep 27 '17 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ You may also find the comments on this closed question useful: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/22116/… $\endgroup$ – Cody P Sep 27 '17 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ You can never switch of fear or phobia, but I hope you overcome it enough to take your flight. Flying is an awesome experience, and a privilege which we as humans have only been able to achieve in the last few seconds of our evolutionary life. If you do overcome it, you will be able to visit places which you can only dream about. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 27 '17 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ This question is not off-topic, or a duplicate. It's asking a question about aviation. It's true that the question it asks isn't really the question that the author needs answering, but that doesn't make it off-topic. It just requires that the question be understood with a certain amount of human empathy to grasp what it's really about. It's a question that in different forms gets asked here occasionally and deserves to be answered. If this forum is unable to address questions about fear of flying adequately, then it really is in danger of falling victim to its own pedantry. $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Sep 27 '17 at 21:01
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Good news

The good news is: you really are safe in an airliner, so safe that you could spend every minute of every day of the the rest of your life flying in one, and still not face any greater meaningful risk of a disaster.

It's difficult to answer your question why it's so safe (i.e. what makes it safe), but the record is there, plainly, that it is so safe.

Bad news

The bad news is: if one has an irrational fear of flying, then no objective facts or understanding will help lessen it.

If the fear is based on misunderstanding or lack of knowledge, then of course learning more will help overcome it. However, that's not the basis of a phobia, or the kind of fear you seem to be describing.

Advice to understand flight and aircraft is well-meaning, but not actually that useful. Someone can have an excellent understanding of aviation engineering and aerodynamics and all manner of subjects, and know that it is exceptionally safe, and still suffer from crippling fear of actually flying.

Everyone is different, but such fear is often brought on by an event or change in life that has nothing whatsoever to do with flying, but somehow gets expressed in a fear of flying.

The comfort and support of another person on board could be the most valuable thing you seek before your flight. I'd suggest expressing your fear, without embarrassment or shame, to the staff at the gate. They and the crew on board will have helped people in such cases many times before, and they are good at it.

Simply getting used to an object of fear is one of the best ways of dealing with it.

I hope you make your flight, and I hope to hear that having done it once, the fear diminished by being stared down, and that subsequent flights render it lesser still. Please tell us about it here.

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    $\begingroup$ Sure I will. Thanks for your answer. $\endgroup$ – alim1990 Sep 27 '17 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ @droidnation Not true. Remember that time a few years ago when things went wrong on a flight but the pilot managed to safely land the plane along the hudson river? Everyone survived that. $\endgroup$ – Pyritie Sep 27 '17 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ @droidnation: In fact every commercial airplane that flies over the sea is designed to be able to safely land on the sea. Each passenger even has his own life vest stored under his seat, and the airplane is equipped with rafts. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Sep 27 '17 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ "when it happens, the percentage of losing all passengers their lives is 100%." - absolutely not. On the contrary, the majority of accidents have no casualties whatsoever! Planes have landed safely with no fuel, engines on fire, broken chassis, etc. $\endgroup$ – IMil Sep 27 '17 at 13:03
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    $\begingroup$ "when it happens, the percentage of losing all passengers their lives is 100%." This is completely untrue. Consider the flight Qantas 32: They had an engine literally explode, over the ocean, with a full load of fuel on board. It was truly a worst-possible-case scenario. Yet they still landed the plane, and not a single person was even injured, much less killed! $\endgroup$ – abelenky Sep 27 '17 at 14:18
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Ships are subject to storms, aircraft fly above them. Cars are confined to a very crowded space called a road, and can collide with all the other cars sharing the road - aircraft have the infinite skies.

Understand an aircraft - they are very competently engineered constructions and are indeed the safest form of transport. Accidents are mainly caused by the unknown, and for over half a century aeronautics has mapped previously unknown factors into the world of understanding. There is very little unknown randomness in aviation.

On a 2-lane road, you see car after car coming toward you, driven by a person who may be distracted or sleepy, only 50 cm away from a collision. Yet you never think about it because you are used to it. Familiarity generates acceptance: things become unexciting.

You're taking your first flight and are not familiar with flying and now must trust us, the engineers who made the plane and the pilots who drive it. We're rational people. It is fear of the unknown that you are experiencing, however it is not unknown to us. Don't concentrate on the distraction (it is unknown) but concentrate on the boring safety record of aviation. Watch birds fly, they don't fear it. And ultimately it is like Franklin D. Roosevelt said: you have nothing to fear but fear itself.

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    $\begingroup$ Pedant alert. The sky is by no mean infinite. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 27 '17 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ To add on Jamiec, you might want to call them unlimited, and East-West & North-South it is true, but not so much in the Up-Down direction, especially down. $\endgroup$ – Federico Sep 27 '17 at 8:11
  • $\begingroup$ Second paragraph doesn't exactly work better for me. Calling devices "incredibly clever" is a sure fire way to kill my faith in its reliability. But luckily, accidents are mainly caused by the unknown :) The last paragraph salvages the whole post. $\endgroup$ – sehe Sep 27 '17 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ Good to know. I find the amount of risk mitigation and catering for the unknown applied to aircraft very comforting. Risk reduction is a science. I did not realise that the word "clever" is associated with increased riskiness. $\endgroup$ – Koyovis Sep 27 '17 at 8:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Pat Airplanes are able to fly with one engine out of operation. (Even 1-engine aircraft can still glide to land, but that's very likely not what the OP is getting into.) In fact, IIRC having full (albeit reduced performance) flight ability with one engine out is a regulatory requirement for multi-engine airplanes. The reason, of course, being that even though in-flight failures of critical subsystems (such as one of the engines) is rare, it can still happen. Hence regulations bodies (such as FAA or EASA) enforce requirements to ensure the ability to safely land even when they do happen. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 27 '17 at 11:51
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I even don't talk to anyone as it is the last day of my life and need to live it alone. I read that this is called "fear of flight" or "phobia of airplanes".

No it is not, in fact its going to be the first day when you learn new heights you can go to, you will make new friends if you're good at it. You will see new views from the Sky. You will see a new perspective to life.

And you will be able to enjoy 800+ kph ground speed while still being able to walk around in an aisle as if it was nothing.

Im a frequent flier but every time I fly airport operations and the sophistication of the aeroplanes never fail to amaze me. Enjoy your tour to one of the best machines man has ever produced!

Its ok to be afraid, it is also ok to admit it but the real key with dealing with any fear is to try to control it for a few moments of decision time, after that momentum takes over and by the time you realize your fear is long gone.

You only have to control your fear till the time your mind is telling you to cancel the ticket, if you keep that in control and reach the airport then the series of steps leading to your journey and arrival at the destination will keep you so immersed in the process that you won't even remember you feared this. Its such a nice process.

Relax, millions of people enjoy that journey everyday. After your flight most probably your only complain will be the quality of in-flight meal :P

Look forward to it!

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  • $\begingroup$ What intimidate me is that the percentage of accident is low like 0.001%, but when it happens, the percentage of losing all passengers their lives is 100%. No accidents had survivors. $\endgroup$ – alim1990 Sep 27 '17 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ Don’t bother. They are nothing more than stats. If something has to happen it can happen in the bedroom as well. Who likes to be part of an accident with even 99 percent survival chances? Nobody wants to be part of any accident good or bad $\endgroup$ – Hanky Panky Sep 27 '17 at 10:50
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Ironically air travel is safe BECAUSE you are so afraid of it ;-).

A big contribution to the safety of air travel is that people are so fearsome about it. You are not the only one - being confined to a metal tube in an environment where you could not breath and would freeze to death at the same time in the matter of seconds without the continuous operation of life supporting technology, while at the same time sitting on several tons of highly flammable liquid is something that will make only the most unimaginative people comfortable, even though the technology that deals with those risks has become very reliable.

Still, have a look at news coverage of any aviation disaster. Coverage is usually extremely extensive. It damages the reputation of the airline, the manufacturer and possibly the whole aviation industry, because people are so afraid. The response of the modern (western) aviation industry is a commitment to safety that goes far beyond the standards of most other industries. If something goes wrong, then there is (seemingly) no shortage of money to find out what exactly went wrong and what can be done so that this never happens again. Think about the Air France Flight 447 which crashed into the sea in a very remote location. I don't have exact figures, but just by reading through the reports of the search&rescue operation with all the highly specialized equipment you can already guess that the industry spent many, many millions of dollars just to find out what was wrong. The reasons for the accident were discovered, lessons were learned, technology was improved and pilot training was amended, just so that this won't happen again.

Air travel has not always been as safe as it is today. But there were many lessons learned. There is never a "single point of failure". E.g. if a twin engined airplane looses one engine during take-off, it will either be able to stop before the end of the runway or it will be able to take-off on the remaining engine and return for landing safely. This is calculated before each and every take-off and the airplane won't leave the gate if calculations show that this is not possible. Modern jets have at least two, most three, some even four fully independent steering systems. On 22 November 2003 a DHL frighter plane was hit by an ant-aircraft missile in Bagdad. Think about it: This was a military attempt to bring down an airplane. This missle hit it's target, the planes wing was on fire and the plane lost ALL it's redundant steering systems. Nevertheless the pilots managed to land the crippled plane in Bagdad. This shows that even with the complete loss of multiple systems planes are nowadays so well engineered, that it is even hard to crash them on purpose. This is something that terrorists also learned on 11 December 1994 when they planted a bomb on Philippine Airlines Flight 434 which blew up and nevertheless that 747 did not fall apart but made a successful emergency landing.

Airplanes are built to withstand things you never want to live through. They are built to land on water, to land without the landing gear, to continue to fly without fuel and engines. They will continue to operate if the cabin door falls out in mid-flight (you'll get cold and possibly suffer from hypoxia and need to get some treatment afterwards, but you'll survive without any permanent damage).

Nevertheless airplanes are not invincible as it has been demonstrated in history. We know that fire on board is a problem so during certification it must be shown that an aircraft can be completely evacuated in 90 seconds through only half of the doors and materials used in construction must not be easily inflammable. Also pilot training plays a critical role and pilots are trained to avoid risks and always put safety concerns first. Nowadays pilots are trained for even the remotest scenarios: Computers which finally allow the operation of highly realistic flight simulators allow to do training that has simply not been possible a couple of decades ago. On the dark side pilot training is expensive as hell. Actually just operating a modern training simulator is expensive as hell, but it is all "safety first" and this is also because the whole aviation industry knows that a single accident might end in bankruptcy.

Still nothing is 100% safe. Not even lying in bed is safe - the building could collapse on you. And it is not equally safe to fly everywhere in the world. Flying up far north or far south is "easier" than flying in the tropics where weather is much more severe, but most importantly not all countries and airlines share the "safety culture". I'd not feel comfortable with some airlines in certain developing countries either, but you can feel very safe with western airlines (also when they operate in the tropics).

Edit (concerning Europe)

I see that you are from Germany and you wrote your flight is about 2 hours. So you will basically fly over Europe the entire time. Specifically for that area flying is very safe. Computer assisted weather forecasts and advanced weather radars on board airplanes have made weather much less dangerous than it used to be, but it is still of concern. However the dangers over Europe are very very low. Weather is not nearly as severe as in the tropics and things like thunderstorms are usually local and can be flown around. Even if you cannot reach your destination due to weather there are probably 10-20 possible alternate airports on your route, so pilots will divert if weather is a problem. Also in case of any emergency there are always suitable places to land (I have been on a plane where a passenger had a sudden life threating health condition and 15 minutes later we were from cruising altitude on the ground). Also Europe has generally a good safety culture and airlines that are considered unsafe are blacklisted and won't fly in Europe. Europe has a very dense airspace with approximately 1 billion (!) passengers reaching their destinations safely each year. Nevertheless accidents are seldom.

Edit 2 (sharing of learning)

If an accident happened with Air France, does the results are shared with other airline companies like Qantas, and even the small ones like Atlas Global per example ?

Yes these results are shared in details. Not only with other airlines, but even with the public. E.g. the report concerning the Air France crash can be downloaded here. It has 223 pages and goes into a lot of details about exactly what happens and includes recommendations for all airlines world wide to prevent these things from happening again. The recommendations are often picked up by local authorities like the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) or the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency (USA)) who then withdraw the airworthiness of planes that have not upgraded the airplanes. E.g. as part of the aftermath from the Air France accident:

On 12 August 2009, Airbus issued three Mandatory Service Bulletins, requiring that all A330 and A340 aircraft be fitted with two Goodrich 0851HL pitot tubes and one Thales model C16195BA pitot (or alternatively three of the Goodrich pitot tubes); Thales model C16195AA pitot tubes were no longer to be used. This requirement was incorporated into Airworthiness Directives issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on 31 August and by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 3 September. The replacement was to be completed by 7 January 2010. (Source: Wikipedia)

In Germany the BFU (Bundesstelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung) is dedicated to investigating accidents and incidents. They publish their findings here. You'll find that nearly all incidents and accidents are related to private pilots and indeed it is much safer to fly with a commercial airline which have better training, better maintenance and more experience than most private pilots. Nevertheless even those accidents are investigated in detail for the aviation world to learn from.

Note that there even things you'd never noticed as a passenger are already regarded as an incident. E.g. by law each flight must be planned so that the plane as enough fuel to fly to its destination airport, then continue to fly to another airport and land there with 30 minutes of fuel to spare. If a plane lands anywhere with less than 30 minutes worth of fuel in the tank, than this is already an incident which will be officially investigated to find the causes and help the aviation world to learn and avoid these things in the future.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Yankee. Just a question. If an accident happened with Air France, does the results are shared with other airline companies like Qantas, and even the small ones like Atlas Global per example ? $\endgroup$ – alim1990 Sep 27 '17 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ @droidnation Not only are accident reports completely public; if it is found that the cause could affect other airplanes, they are no longer allowed to fly until the problem is fixed (airworthiness directives). $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Sep 27 '17 at 11:25
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    $\begingroup$ @droidnation: Yes. There is a very comprehensive sharing of safety information. In particular, if there is an issue with a plane (which is generally just an annoyance as pretty much everything is redundant), Air France will report it to the manufacturer, and the manufacturer will look up every other owner of that model and share the information. And the same applies to Atlas Global. In fact, the manufacturer doesn't just keep track of the planes they sold, but of each and every individual part on that plane. 6th tire on the left? The manufacturer knows the exact time and date it was made. $\endgroup$ – MSalters Sep 27 '17 at 11:26
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    $\begingroup$ Adding to what @MSalters wrote, if there's some reason to believe that, say, all tires from a specific manufacturing batch has the same fault, the manufacturer can use that same information to track down which other operators and aircraft might be affected. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 27 '17 at 11:56
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    $\begingroup$ "They will continue to operate if the cabin door falls out in mid-flight" And the door is typically attached in such a way that lots of things have to go very, very wrong before it "falls out in mid-flight". The lower air pressure on the outside of the aircraft at altitude means that there is a huge force acting on the door from the inside; the door opens to the inside, which means that all of that air pressure is keeping the door shut rather than trying to force it open in the normal direction of movement. (We do have a question or two about deliberately opening jetliner doors in flight.) $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 27 '17 at 11:59
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Just as "man did not win the lottery" doesn't tend to make the news, you only hear about the exceptionally rare cases where anything newsworthy happens. Not having flown before, it may be difficult to comprehend how common many planes there are flying at any given time. We have gotten very experienced at building these machines and even the most unlikely scenarios have been remedied for. The sheer amount of flights is also the only reason you ever hear about accidents happening nowadays.

Large numbers and difficult for the human brain to comprehend, so I'd like to add this screenshot I just took to this thread:

enter image description here

You might not see it but it is supposed to say "Germany" somewhere in the middle.

You can even open flightradar24 and see for yourself how many planes there are landing safely at any given time. I guarantee you will get bored looking weeks before you hear of a fatal accident.

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In my view planes are saver transportation then all others mainly because of this reasons:

Physical force range

Air produces limited force attacking the fuselage of a plane. There is no such phenomenon like freak waves which can damage shippes, or rocks laying on the road after a bend destroungin a car hitting it.

The only phenomenon able to destroy a plane in flight is another plane or an extraordinary strong thunderstorm. Both can be easily detected and avoided.

In flight communication.

Radio

Pilots have (almost) constant possibility to talk to a controller on the ground via radio. Since this is a shared medium all other pilots in the same area (communication with the same controller) get to know what the other plains are doing or have been told to do. This way each pilot knows about the intentions of the other pilots around him.

Anti Collision System

Commercial aircrafts have an anti collision system which also communiates via radio and informs the pilot about other aircrafts which are close by and potentionally on a collision curse.

Maintanence

Check Schedule

For each aircraft type there is a detailed check schedule that defines for each part or the plane after how many working hours it needs to be inspected. This schedule contails simple visual checks (in shorter intervalls) and more elaborate checks where the part needs to be disassembled and/or inspected using tools like ultra sonic devices and similar (in longer intervall).

Pre Flight check

As a part of the check schedule the crew must perform a preflight check which involves visual inspection of the plane from outside and functional checks of the most important systems.
(I usually aks my passengers when they last checked the oil or the break fluid in the car they came with...)

Fail Safety

The most important systems of a comercial airplane are backed up. That means you have independend system doing the same.

And most importand: any plane can be landed safely as long as you can control speed and direction, even if all engines fail.

Crew Training

The crew regularily trains the emergency procedures and handling of the plane when certain technical problem occure. This ensures almost ever (at least) a safe landing if a system of the plane fails during flight.

Accident Investigation

Although this is my last point this is the most important one!

After an accident its root cause is investigated.

The results of this investigation is transfered into either

  • regulations on how to build aircrafts,
  • orders to the manufacturer to update existing planes or the check schedules,
  • changes of operation procedures for flight crews and/or controllers.

But as Daniele Procida stated: knowing all of this may not work against flight phobia...

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  • $\begingroup$ What intimidate me is that the percentage of accident is low like 0.001%, but when it happens, the percentage of losing all passengers their lives is 100%. No accidents had survivors. $\endgroup$ – alim1990 Sep 27 '17 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ There are accidents that have survivors. For example, American Airlines flight 383 in October 2016. One of the engines caught fire (this pretty bad), but there were 0 fatalities. A few had minor injuries but that's it. There are many other recent example of crashes that did not have 100% fatalities. It's just that the accidents that have 100% fatalities get publicized a lot more, so you hear about that, but you don't hear about the others. "Plane crashes, everyone is fine" doesn't make a great newspaper headline $\endgroup$ – Daniel K Sep 27 '17 at 11:05
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    $\begingroup$ @droidnation Don't ever base your statistics on how you perceive things in the news. By that logic, you can't visit banks because they're only in the news when they're robbed, you can't buy phones because they're only in the news when they break, and you should never even go abroad because every time foreign countries are in the news, something bad happens there. $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Sep 27 '17 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Sanchises "...and you should never even go abroad because every time foreign countries are in the news, something bad happens there." Heck, every time your own country is in the news, it's typically because something bad has happened! At best, when it's in the news, that's because something has happened which, for all but a (relatively) small group of people, what's happened is a relatively neutral event. Remember the definition of news: stuff that almost never happens. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 27 '17 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielKiracofe: ""Plane crashes, everyone is fine" doesn't make a great newspaper headline": I disagree: The "Hudson Miracle" made very good headlines although it was just that. $\endgroup$ – yankee Sep 27 '17 at 15:00
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The answer to why it is called the safest form of travel is pretty straight forward.

Automobiles resulted in 45 deaths per BILLION passenger miles.

Trains resulted in 29 deaths per BILLION passenger miles.

Air travel resulted in 6.9 deaths per BILLION passenger miles, .07 per BILLION passenger miles if you're just looking at commercial air travel.

Every time you read, see or think about an airliner accident.. try to remember that for every one of those accidents there are 3-4 MILLION flights that landed with no problems.

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