How safe is your plane?

How do planes overcome the hazards posed by weather, technology and humans?


It might come as a surprise, given what seems to be almost constant media coverage of airplane accidents and near misses, but last year (2016) was the second safest year in aviation history. It follows 2013, the safest year ever, according to the Aviation Safety Network. The statistics for 2016 indicate that for every 10,769,280 passengers who flew, one person died. Based on this figure alone, the odds of being involved in an airplane accident remain incredibly slim.

But if that doesn’t give you sufficient peace of mind about flying, maybe the following facts about airplane safety features will. Skyscanner Australia recently published an article outlining the various ways in which modern planes are designed to overcome the potential hazards posed by technological failures, the environment and human interference.

The first step in the line of defence against airplane accidents is the rigorous training required for commercial pilots. Pilots are trained to possess certain skills, including the ability to manage a lot of information at once, following routines and protocols, working in a team, and compartmentalising.

Planes contain a significant amount of technology engineered to maximise performance and minimise risk. Redundant aircraft systems ensure that there is at least one back up for that function (sometimes, two), should the primary mechanism stop working or fail. An example of this is an alternate air intake or a separate GPS.

Another factor that helps to prevent technological failure in modern aircrafts is the transition from a machine-based cockpit to a computer-based operating system. This change reduces human error and enhances flight precision, as the pilot and computer operate the plane simultaneously, as opposed to the pilot having complete control over a machine.

Before a plane even takes off from a runaway, you can rest assured that the design of everything on-board – externally and internally – has been thoroughly tested by engineers. Flight simulators do not only help to train pilots, they also provide engineers with a way to comprehensively assess aircraft technology.

Also before take-off, both the pilot and maintenance crew run a gamut of pre-flight tests to ensure that the plane is safe to fly. Airplanes are checked at least daily by maintenance, and collaboration between ground crew, airlines and meteorological bodies means that in severe weather conditions, extra precautions are taken, with planes sometimes being grounded.

Should something occur mid-flight, there are both technology and airline safety protocols in place to prevent a crisis. In the past few years alone, changes, such as cockpit doors locking to prevent a hijacking, have come in to place to protect passengers and airline crew.

The above information really only skims the surface regarding the safety features of airplanes, but it still highlights just how many ways in which the technology of flying is engineered to succeed. Flying remains safer than any other form of travel according to many sources, including this article; with fatal accidents among airplanes only occurring once in every 2 million flights.



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    9th Aug 2017
    First thing: aircraft not "aircrafts".

    You are indeed correct about the probability of crashing being very low. It does happen though and often it is pilot error.
    Mechanical issues are rare because maintenance is is very high and scheduled at strict numbers of hours. The big problem I see is that maintenance has now gone to the third world where workers are still fairly lackadaisical so expect the occasional crash. Also, new aircraft still experience unforeseen issues albeit rare and older aircraft suffer component stress related issues. These should be picked up during inspections before critical components fail but they do occasionally slip through.
    Safer to fly then to drive. As always your life is in the hands of God and when it is time to check out it is time.
    Ted Wards
    9th Aug 2017
    Dont do a story on cruises and death, you might find that every cruise has a least one person die. The longer the cruise, the more that die and every cruise ship has a morgue! Slow day in news world I guess
    9th Aug 2017
    Its a bit uncomfortable to sit on a plane until the angels come and collect the elderly, Ted. A lot of oldies have found its cheaper and more pleasant to cruise the ocean rather than go into nursing care. - and I am inclined to agree with them.
    9th Aug 2017
    And how many fall overboard and disappear?
    9th Aug 2017
    I have often been asked why I prefer cruising to flying. My stock answer is that I can swim far better than I can fly. Also ships ensure you have a life preserver and a place in a life boat. I have never flown in a civil aircraft where I was issued with a parachute. Nevertheless I accept there is minimal risk in flying, the riskiest part of any flight is travelling to the airport.
    9th Aug 2017
    Eddy you need to research that rational a little more. Just look up the number of deaths at sea per year. Its quite alarming.
    Tom Tank
    9th Aug 2017
    To me a major concern is the degree of computer control built into aircraft as when it goes wrong, as it has done, the pilots can have great difficulty in assessing what is actually happening.
    It would be fair to say that mechanically aircraft are very safe indeed but electronically I reserve a degree of concern. However the most dangerous part of any flight is actually the journey to and from the airport.
    9th Aug 2017
    I suspect you are worrying unnecessarily. First there are standby computer systems. Second, the the flight crew are in the cabin ready to take charge. Full automation is already available. Has been for years but this is still being monitored as it should be.
    You may be surprised to hear that landings are already sometimes done with the autopilot.
    Enjoy your flying Tom. You have a bigger chance of being bowled over whilst crossing the street so chill out next time you fly.
    billy boy
    9th Aug 2017
    how exciting ;)
    9th Aug 2017
    Of course it is safe. However you are trusting someone else - and your life depends on their dedication to the job.
    As a pilot once said to me, "There is one person I want to get home safely tonight - and its me, so the rest of you can take comfort in that thought."
    9th Aug 2017
    Flying is pretty safe these days compared to the past but there are still a lot of variables which can occur. Most of 'flying' these days is on done with electronics rather than seat of pants but a good pilot is still important. I recall 2 years ago an Air Asia plane had one of the most dramatic crashes ever seen and was videoed coming down over a freeway with an extreme yaw (ie on its side). The reason for the crash: the Asian pilot turned off one of the engines by mistake during takeoff. No comment!
    9th Aug 2017
    Small planes are experiencing crashes at an alarming rate.
    9th Aug 2017
    Inexperienced pilots flying through bad weather (clouds) and close to the ground in planes which are often handyman planes and/or not properly serviced.
    7th Sep 2017
    It depends upon what you mean by "an alarming rate". The media love a light plane crash where there has been one person killed. On the same day, around Australia there will be several car crashes killing two or more people, but that won't make it into the news. Please look at a few factors in these alarming crashes. More than once the pilot was already dead prior to impact as a result of a "medical episode".
    I'm not really sure what Mick means by "handyman" planes, but maybe he is referring to home-builts. Many of these are built from kits of very high standards and if anything, the overall build quality is as good as, if not better than those coming out of factories. Every step of the construction has been monitored and passed by appropriately knowledgeable people.
    To become better aware of these "handyman planes" anyone interested could do well to make their way to Narromine during the end of the third week of October for Airventure 2017.

    9th Aug 2017
    It will not be long before the cockpit crew will consist of a pilot and a dog.
    The pilot to monitor the systems and the dog to bite the pilot if he looks like touching anything.
    Take it easy.
    9th Aug 2017
    I wont even walk underneath an airplane in the air in case it falls on me let alone fly in one.
    SD :-)

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