Have you ever boarded a plane and found yourself wondering, ‘how on earth does this massive metal machine stay up in the air?’ You’re not alone! Many people, including fearful flyers (Aerophobia), have the same concern when soaring high above the ground.
For many, the thought of boarding an airplane fills them with a sense of dread and anxiety. This fear, known as aerophobia, affects millions of people worldwide and can make the thought of traveling by plane unbearable. But what causes this fear, and how can it be managed?
This article will explore the various causes of aerophobia and provide tips and strategies for overcoming this fear and enjoying the benefits of air travel. Whether you’re a fearful flyer looking for ways to manage your anxiety or simply interested in learning more about this common phobia, this article is for you.
Aircraft manufacturers must comply with safety statistics requirements as international organizations dictate. In any modern aircraft, the probability of a catastrophic scenario (of the kind that may lead to a crash) occurring shall not exceed one in a billion per flight hour. A maximum of 100 scenarios of this kind are allowed on any aircraft type. Moreover, a single failure must not lead to a catastrophic scenario occurring. Should an aircraft comply with these rates, it will not be certified and, therefore, unable to perform commercial flights.
Considering the average flight time (five hours), the odds of being involved in an aircraft accident amount to about one in two million each time you fly. Or you will be involved in a crash every 1,000 years onboard.
Plane or car?
In five years (between 2012 and 2017), 1,910 people died in 80 commercial aircraft accidents. This represents an average of about 382 deaths in 16 accidents per year.
In the USA, around 32,000 people die in car crashes every year. Of course, more people step into cars every day than in aircraft. Nevertheless, the fact remains that you are at a far greater risk of being involved in a crash when driving to the airport than when getting on an aircraft. However, the accepted belief is that people have more control over their fate when in their car than when a passenger is on an aircraft.
The media can contribute to aerophobia
Media coverage would suggest that aircraft accidents occur daily. Reports of such accidents are between 150 and 200 times more likely to receive front-page coverage than reports of more common causes of death. Consequently, fearful flyers develop a negative bias toward flying. Their fears become validated by the relentless bombardment of information relating to airline safety following an accident.
Are some airlines safer than others?
Yes. The odds of being on a flight resulting in at least one fatality vary depending on the airline you are flying with.
|Airlines||Odds of being on an airline flight that results in at least one fatality|
|Top 25 airlines with the best records||1 in 4.25 millions|
|Bottom 25 airlines with the worst records||1 in 386,000|
Two main reasons explain these variations:
- Even though all airlines must meet ICAO (International Civil Aviation Authority) safety standards, the control and oversight of implementing these regulations remain under the responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority of the country where the airline has set its main base. But the knowledge and organization of those national authorities differ from one country to another. Foreign authorities may perform checks on aircraft landing in their country (and can decide to ground an aircraft as a result). Still, since only a few aircraft can be controlled, foreign authorities generally trust the authority of the country where the airline has its main base.
- For example, if a Russian aircraft lands in Paris (France), the French authorities will be allowed to control and ground the aircraft should it not comply with French regulations. So many aircraft land in France daily that they cannot all be held. This Russian aircraft is, therefore, not likely to be checked. The French authorities must consequently trust the Russian Authorities and allow the aircraft to operate in France.
- An aircraft manufacturer requests an action list from its customers (i.e., airlines) to ensure that the aircraft will be safe throughout its life. Such action lists may include regular checks and a list of mandatory and optional equipment, for example.
Some airlines may add to this action list. For example, some optional equipment could become mandatory. This improves safety, but it also drastically increases aircraft operating costs. Some airlines, therefore, choose to leave their constraints on the list. The safety of these airlines will be at its lowest acceptable level.
An airline may manifest dangerous actions or non-compliance with the regulation. If such an airline is not grounded by its supervisory authority, the European Commission will put it on its blacklist.
Similarly, when Europe cannot get enough evidence that a country’s civil aviation authorities are doing their job correctly, it will put all airlines in that country on its blacklist.
The safety of a flight varies based on the country an aircraft belongs to and the airline’s safety policy. Most airlines meet basic safety standards, as required by the ICAO. Among these airlines, some decide, despite additional costs, to introduce their safety standards and the ICAOs and increase their safety levels.
There needs to be more information in the media regarding aircraft safety. As aircraft crashes are more spectacular and more profitable, these make front-page news, leading to people developing aerophobia.
Next time you board a commercial aircraft, remember: air travel is the safest of all means of travel.
Cover Photo by Kürşat Kuzu