Will I keep flying?

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First of all it was MH370, then MH 17, then Taiwan, Iran, one in Mali and a shooting at a plane in Pakistan. Lots of people have been asking me whether I will keep flying after these horrific events.

A poll, conducted for TheStreet by GfK at the end of July found that 36% of Americans feel afraid to fly internationally. Women are more fearful than men, older people are more fearful than younger people.

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Image: Getty

For an Australian who flies Malaysia Airlines a lot and who has traversed the skies above the Ukraine a few times in my Europe voyages, the shooting down last month has shaken me enough to think through my answer.  I still give a firm “yes” based on the mostly good news about flying.

Despite being way more planes in the sky and despite more people flying than ever before, only 29 planes were written off in 2013 and only 265 people lost their lives through air related accidents. Please do not think me flippant or disrespectful when I say “only“. I am not dismissing the value of those people or belittling the pain of the grief caused by their loss. Its just that compared to motor vehicle deaths, this figure is tiny. It is about the same number that die on US roads every three days.

It says something that there are now almost three billion people flying and only a small percentage will ever see a bad air event. In 1994, just twenty years ago when air traffic was way smaller,  there were  67 planes written off and 2027 people died. In the last decade, in every year but one (2005), we have seen the number of fatalities fall under 1000 per year and stay there.

There are many reasons for this amazing progress. Aeroplanes and their components: engines, wings, fuselage  have improved significantly. Advances in technology for  navigation, weather prediction and warnings has reduced crashes. Pilot training has improved significantly.

Sadly,  more people have died (or been presumed dead) in 2014 aeroplane accidents than 2012 and 2013 with theis year’s toll already sitting at 761:  Of course, 537 of these people have been lost through the two Malaysia Airlines‘ losses. These “events” skew a trend that has been downwards for so long. Take those two events out and the death toll sits at 224.

Will I stop flying? No. Will I choose my airlines carefully? As always. Will I fly Malaysia Airlines? My next flight is booked with them in three weeks.  I figure, my chances of being impacted are so low. Now driving in some countries to the airport, that is a different story….

To all who have perished in air crashes, Rest in Peace. Thoughts to their families.

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 [updated]

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  1. As a frequent flyer, I have gotten this question as well. My response: I am much, much more terrified of people texting while driving, or drunk drivers, than I am of a plane crash. I’m much more worried about such people hitting me while I’m walking, riding my bicycle, riding my motorcycle or driving myself.

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