As the world mourns the 150 lives lost in the latest air crash of Germanwings 9525, we answer that nail-biting question: "Is it still safe to fly?"
After having witnessed the latest string of major aircraft disasters over the last year (Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501, to name a few) it may sound like the risk involved with hopping onto a commercial airline is on the rise. And to be safe as houses when travelling, we should all clip our wings and hop into a car and travel Rain Man style instead.
But while these tragedies have no doubt claimed the lives of innocent passengers, it doesn't mean that flying anywhere and on any specific airline is any less safe that it was before they happened.
Here's an look at the number of major air crashes (resulting in 50 or more deaths) since the dawn of flight.
Source of data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_accidents_and_incidents_resulting_in_at_least_50_fatalities
Reasons why you shouldn't be afraid to fly:
The level of risk for passengers is quite low
According to IATA (International Air Travel Association) on average, more than 8 million people fly every day. Looking at 2013 alone, over 3.1 billion passengers boarded and flew on aircrafts (both passenger, commercial and otherwise), and of those, only 50 died in a major aircraft. This where 'major' is defined as resulting in 50 or more deaths.
In a relatively unfortunate year, 2014 saw four major air crashes claim 892 lives. However, compared to the 3.3 billion passengers that flew that year, this is still a relatively low number all things considered. To further back this up, a study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011 found that (statistics-wise) you'd have to fly every day for 22,000 years to be involved in a fatal incident.
The level of danger right now is no more up than it is down
Since the dawn of flight in 1933, no year has been without some kind of incident. In fact, the number of fatalities involved in major air crashes has been quite steady, if not on the overall decrease these past two decades - this with the exception of a few peaks. This including the 2001 (9/11) tragedy that claimed over 3000 lives as well as in the year 1996, when 13 major air crashes occurred.
It's still less dangerous than other forms of transport
Something that Tom Cruises' character says in Rain Man is that flying is one of the safest forms of transport in the world. Which, when compared to something like road fatalities, is actually quite true.
Looking at Transport NSW's Preliminary Traffic Crash Data report, the fatality rates in NSW for the 12-month period ending in January 2015 was 304. Calculated, this is a rate of 4.0 per 100,000 of the population.
Working off this same idea, the rate per 100,000 of the population (of the 3.3 billion people who flew) for air-related fatalities that year is close to 0.000027.
Australia is one of the safest flight zones in the world
According to Forbes Russia is the most dangerous area to fly in the world, having the highest number of hull losses per million pairs of takeoffs and landings. Over the years, Australia and the Asia Pacific's hull loss record has remained fairly low and steady in comparison. And on that note, may we just comfort you in saying, that despite some incidents, Qantas still holds an exemplary track record in the skies, upholding a total of zero crashes or fatalities to date.