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How safe is flying?

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How safe is flying?

Old 13th Oct 2008, 14:29
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Yorkshire
Age: 36
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How safe is flying?

Im cracking on with my PPL and enjoying it very much.

It seems just about every other day there are threads or AAIB reports or news items about accidents involving small planes, which does concern me somewhat.

I just wonder what the correct statistics are compared to say my other hobby of riding high perfomrance road bikes...

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Old 13th Oct 2008, 14:47
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Flying is as safe as you make it. These accidents we all hear off are mostly pilot induced by poor decision making and cockpit management, not all but most!

Some people you see flying does totally worry you but you need to ensure that you prepare yourself before every flight and ensure you have checked all the details, met, NOTAMS weight and balance etc.

You need to be thinking ahead of the aircraft and always be looking around you for that forced landing site other aircraft etc ( plus enjoying the view!! , it will become second nature after a while!

Above all enjoy it do all your planning and your be fine!!

Best of luck!
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 14:48
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Let me ask you a counterquestion. Is there an equivalent to an AAIB report for every motorcycle incident/accident/fatality?

The aviation industry is very safety conscious, because flying is potentially a very dangerous activity for us human beings. How safely you will fly depends to a large extent in how well you're going to abide by the rules, regulations, best practices, recommendations from the AAIB and everything else that we have now because other people lost their lives.
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 14:54
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Usually when people ask me if flying is safe I tell them that I feel safer seating at the controls of a small airplane than driving on the highway to my local airfield.
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 14:54
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Compared to riding sports bikes I feel safer flying everytime.

(BRL Ducati Rider).....
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 15:01
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Last year there were nearly a quarter of a million casualties in road accidents in the UK. Just over 1% of them were killed (2,946).

That is the equivalent of a jumbo load of people crashing every six weeks. Not worldwide, but just in the UK. Does that put it in perspective for you?

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Old 13th Oct 2008, 15:07
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 15:07
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The stats speak for themselves.

Something like 1 fatality in 100,000 flight hours.

So.....if you fly 100 hours per year, then in 1000 years you'll be dead from flying!

Of course people win the lottery too....
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 15:16
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Ah, but englishal; that fatality could always be in your first hour out of the 100,000
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 15:24
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How safe is flying?
To be realistic, not very safe at all when compared to commercial aviation.

But hey, we all die at some point or another
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 15:45
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To attempt a comparison with roads:

The 2,946 road deaths come in about 6,000 million hours driving. (I've guessed 30 million drivers averaging 200 hours a year at the wheel; that ignores passenger hours.)

If that's right, it means 1 fatality in 2 million driving hours, so 20 times safer than private flying.
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 15:54
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Do you know what, I asked the same question a long time ago when I started flying.

Here is what I have discovered since.

You will often read flying is safer than driving or other similar comparisons. Well forget these. As with all statistics unless you understand how they are calculated, they are worthless. More over there has been plenty of debate on here which would lead you to conclude that if you do the stats on any reasonable basis flying light aircraft is probably more dangerous than driving.

I think a far more rational approach is to consider where the risks lie and what you can do to minimise them.

Here are some of the most common reasons for fatal accidents involving light aircraft:

1. Controlled flight into terrain,
2. Stall, spin, loss of control,
3. Instrument approach accidents,
4. Mechanical failure,
5. Structural failure,
6. Collision

Of course to varying degrees these reasons may be inter-related. An engine failure (4) may in itself not be catastrophic unless combined with 2.

However, if you read the accident reports the vast majority of accidents are avoidable. For example, if you are properly trained and current, there is no reason to lose control, or to fly into the side of a hill. These are both examples of perfectly serviceable and functioning aircraft killing their pilots and together account for the vast majority of fatal accidents. In fact if you eliminate all the accidents caused by pilot error there are very few left. Even some of those result in an avoidable loss of life. For example, if a pilot maintains control of the aircraft the evidence all points towards a successful and survivable ditching. However most do not survive because of hypothermia. Once again, depending on how risk averse you are, simple precautions like wearing a dry suite, and carrying a raft reduce this risk significantly.

So if you are confident that you will maintain sound currency, will be proficient, avoid taking risks and flying outside your envelope, partake in regular recurrent training etc., the vast majority of these risks can be eliminated.

You are left with a few more difficult to deal with. Here they are:

1. Engine failure immediately after take off,
2. Structural failure
3. Collision
4. Forced landing over poor terrain.

Well arguably even some of these are avoidable. With any luck and engine failure after take off IF you maintain control is survivable. You could decide to avoid ever flying over terrain that doesn’t present any forced landing sites. Given that I have experienced poor engineers, using engineers with a good reputation can also be a factor.

So in a perfect world you are left with very few situations which you can do little about – and come down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Certainly structural failure falls into this category; arguably so does collision (although IMHO flying with some form of CAS helps mitigate the risk).

In the perfect world the risk is therefore very small and perhaps a great deal smaller than motoring where so many of the accidents are the results of the actions of some other idiot over which you have very little control.

It’s for these reason I caution you to ignore the statistics – flying is as safe as you wish to make it. Push the envelope, fly beyond your ability, become complacent or rusty and it is the most unforgiving of pastimes.
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 16:06
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common reasons for fatal accidents involving light aircraft
Some reasons behind these reasons:

Continuing VFR into IFR conditions.
Alcohol/drug abuse.
Maneuvering at low altitude.
Get home-itis.
poor fuel management.

Students are amongst the safest pilots. Most dangerous are those who have just got their PPL.
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 16:11
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Pompey till I die
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Interesting question

CAVOK, well maintained aircraft, fuel to tabs, brimble to an airfield half an hour away that you can visually see after take off, well that's incredibly safe.

Awful visibility\mist\haze\fog, low level thunder clouds, not flown for a few months and not instrument rated = almost certain death

As a pilot you analyse the situation, look at where between those poles you are and then make your decision to fly based on that. As others have said, aircraft have been flying so long now that design issues have been fixed so very rarely does the aircraft fail, it's almost always the pilot. The reason you die is because you where closer to the "thunder storm" pole than the 1st.

To put it into some context. I fly, in fact I love flying and fly over water and abroad. On the other hand, I wouldn't ride a motorcycle (apart from my 50cc) on the road.
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 16:33
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Jeremy Pratt in "Beyond the PPL" suggests having a personal minima and if the weather is outside these limits then it's an automatic "no".
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 16:54
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CAVOK, well maintained aircraft, fuel to tabs, brimble to an airfield half an hour away that you can visually see after take off, well that's incredibly safe.

That sounds awfully complacement to me.
Old 13th Oct 2008, 17:54
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When I did some training in the US (helicopter), it was emphasised that 2/3 of fatal helicopter accidents involve one or more of:

- poor weather
- night
- flying below 500ft agl (outside take-off/landing)

Since avoidance of these are all within the pilot's control, the thrust of the safety briefing was that by simply avoiding these three aeas, you can keep yourself out of 2/3 of fatal accidents.

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Old 13th Oct 2008, 22:00
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Usual answer:

In raw figures, you can choose statistics that say that flying little aeroplanes is about as dangerous as riding motorbikes (ie lots more dangerous than driving cars).

However as others have said most motorcyclists are killed by other people, whereas most pilots kill themselves.

So you can cheat. You can read the accident reports, and choose not to kill yourself in many of the favourite ways.

Thus making your odds better than those of a motorcyclist.

I fly. I gave away my motorbike years ago because driving it around amongst all those people who were out to kill me just got too frightening.
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 22:19
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Safety in aviation is like the manual safety on a firearm. It's not found in the airplane, or on the gun. It's in you; it's your mind, your thought process, your judgement, and your discipline.

No law prohibits acting conservatively, and the ability to say no is an excellent safeguard against misbehavior and misfortune in the business.
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Old 13th Oct 2008, 22:37
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Liam, I think if you are already thinking of safety, that is great.
There are many good posts here with good advice.

Things I was told early on that have stood me in good stead:-
It is always better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground.

There is no such thing as a stupid question - if you want to know something, ask. Never assume or guess. Take time to find out.

The most useless things in aviation are the air in your fuel tanks and the runway behind you when you line up.

My own thoughts:-
Always take time to prepare and always be prepared to make the decision to go home. If in doubt ALWAYS err on the side of safety. Always consider your options carefully.

If you are a consicentious, thinking pilot you will have alleviated most of the risks.

And those accident reports - it is well worth reading them as it will give you the knowledge to avoid making the same mistake yourself. In fact, I would recommend reading them and then considering what you might have done differently, if you had been in the same situation. Airlines regularly publish pilots incident reports to the rest of the crews, even minor stuff, for this reason. You can also go read books, read around the subject, ask on here (although these days there are lots of "armchair" pilots on PPRuNe, so try to make sure they actually have a licence if you are going to take their advice!!!!).

If you ever find yourself rushing, not in the right frame of mind, or worried about something, don't go flying.

And remember - flying IS meant to be fun!
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