The Blog with the Search Engine for Statistics

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Plane Crash Statistics

Plane crash statistics isn't a very popular topic, but since I've collected some data and posted some of it in Wiki Answers, I might as well throw the links to statistics up here and in my search engine.

What possessed me to start digging for plane crash statistics? My 8 year old daughter has had this fear for the last three weeks that a plane will fall and crash into our house. Her prayers now include "Dear God, please don't let a plane fall on our house - and if it does can me and mom (and sisters, brothers, dogs, cats, guinea pigs) all go to heaven at the same time?" This is my daredevil daughter that has spent her walking years (she skipped crawling) climbing and jumping from anything and everything she could. (No broken legs yet - thank God.)

Personally, I could use a new roof. So if the plane crashes and we're not home and I can get a new roof out of the deal - all the better for me. I suggested that to her but it didn't help make her feel better. I just got the evil eye. I tried to explain statistics and probability - comparing it to the lottery - but failed miserably. So, we went on the web and looked for plane crash statistics (surfing very carefully so I didn't land on any pages with plane crash images).

One of the first statistics I found was that there is a 1 in 34,000,000 chance of dying from a plane while being on the ground. I tried explaining probability again. It still didn't work. I even exaggerated.

Mom: "Well, out of all the people in the US, only one will probably die from a plane while on the ground." (I said I exaggerated.)

Daughter: Gasp! "You mean someone in the US will die from a plane!"

Sigh. We found out that it is safer for her to fly in a plane than it is for her to ride her bike. (And she LOVES riding her bike.) It helped a little. Now she's worried about a propeller falling off the plane or an engine blowing up. But, the bicycle fact keeps nudging her back to rationalization. But they are little tiny nudges that always seem to get pushed back even harder.

Out of sheer helplessness, I've emailed my sister who used to work at Boeing. (But now teaches tenth graders how to make paper airplanes.) Maybe she can tell us the strength of the Krazy Glue they use on the propellers. (Still waiting to hear from her.)

I did learn the best way to search for statistics on plane crashes is to search for statistics on "aviation" rather than plane or airplane.

So how many plane crashes happen every year? The closest figure I got was a US figure of about 36 crashes per year based on the National Transportation and Safety Bureau (NTSB) figures from 1988 - 2007. The NTSB Aviation Page has links to information on investigations and statistics, and their Accident Database has a search engine for detailed accident querys. They also have a link for data and tables on airplane Accidents, Fatalities and Rates. I guess it's no surprise Alaska has some of the highest plane accident rates. Wonder if Sarah flies?

The first statistics I found were from PBS's Nova. PBS has a chart on Commercial Airpcraft Fatalities from 1982-2005. Their article "How Risky is Flying" is where I found the statistics comparing bicyles to planes (and cars and trains - no horses though). Some comparative statistics:

The annual risk of being killed in a plane crash for the average American is about 1 in 11 million.

...the annual risk of being killed in a motor vehicle crash for the average American, which is about 1 in 5,000.

...the likelihood of dying from heart disease is much higher (1 in 400 per year, for the average American.)

Eight year olds don't really think about dying from heart disease though. Of course, most eight year olds don't think about dying from a plane falling into their house either.

Using the search engine on my blog I was also able to find statistics from the Census Department and Bureau of Labor Statistics on fatality statistics from plane crashes per industry.

Wikipedia has an entry on plane crashes, and I also just recently (like a couple seconds ago) found this Wiki on Aircrafts that I'll have to take a look at more thoroughly.

The Horace Mann Reach Every Child website has Lots of Educational Links to Resources on Airplanes for all ages, and I also stumbled on this comprehensive list of links to Aviation Sites that must have taken a great deal of time to put together.

The Airline Pilots Association has their own website, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a lot to say about airplane safety. Hmmm...maybe she should write them a letter. Great homework assignment. Doesn't seem to be good timing to write the President now anyhow. I don't see anything on their HELP webpage about how to convince an 8 year old a plane isn't going to fall on the house.

Maybe if she's in the air instead of the ground she won't worry about it so much. Maybe she could start training for her pilot's license. Then she'll be in control instead of her imagination.


Anonymous February 13, 2009 at 8:54 AM  

great information!! thank you...

Anonymous February 13, 2009 at 4:26 PM  

I find it a little wierd that you wrote this just a few months before 2 huge plane crashes. Very helpful statistics.

-Joe Sadlo

P.S Could you possibly add a link to the report of the recent plane crash in Buffalo.

Statistics to Share February 13, 2009 at 8:08 PM  

What's even more weird is the Buffalo one is a mile from my dad's house. I'll be doing a Buffalo post. Tragic event. So sad.

Carol April 29, 2011 at 2:59 PM  

Interesting post. Unfortunately, a person has to get on a plane at one time in the course of his life because it is faster than road traveling. However, it kind of scares me of the higher risk that it poses compared to other accidents. Not to mention the recent accidents that are occurring on airports.

Yma Cabernet September 14, 2011 at 10:31 AM  

Due to fly to Cape Town next week - not really that keen on it given the poor aviation safety record in Africa.

Thought I would look at how the 5 minutes of take-off and climb-out impact on my life expectancy.

Used a figure of 12 fatalities per million flight hours [] for SA commercial flights, and multiplied by the 2 hour flight duration, and the 30% risk factor for the first 5 min of flight. Combined with my hoped for life expectancy, I estimate that those five minutes of flight have an expected reduction of 3 hours on my life expectancy.

Compare that with watching television, 2 hours of sitting vegging in front of TV only reduces my life expectancy by 44 minutes [].

Maybe I should take a sickie, and stay at home and watch TV instead!

sqiar December 19, 2013 at 1:59 AM  

SQIAR ( is a leading global consultancy which provides innovative business intelligence services to small and medium size (SMEs) businesses. Our agile approach provides organizations with breakthrough insights and powerful data visualizations to rapidly analyse multiple aspects of their business in perspectives that matter most.

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