Jeb on Airspeed

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JHWellington
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Jeb on Airspeed

Postby JHWellington » Thu May 08, 2008 1:44 pm

I listened to Steven Force's most recent Airspeed podcast which featured Jeb and the general topic was aviation safety. Steve asked Jeb "how safe is GA" and he didn't really answer the question -- not with statistics anyway. That got me thinking -- does anyone know the statistical safety rate of ASEL vs. driving?

I would imagine it would have to be quoted in "hours of use" for comparison purposes. Does anyone know what the fatality rate is for ASEL as a percentage of total hours flown? Is there a similar statistic for automobiles in hours driven? I'm only interested in fatality rates, not accident rates.

I would really like to tell prospective passengers the risks of flying GA vs. driving in their cars.

John
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Landis
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Re: Jeb on Airspeed

Postby Landis » Thu May 08, 2008 2:05 pm

I don't have a statistical answer for you (as I'm too lazy to Google it right now) but my comparison for GA is generally to motorcycles. Not as safe as cars, but plenty of people ride 'em and get to their destinations every day. You can do stupid things on motorcycles and you can do stupid things in airplanes.

All right I said I was lazy, but Safari had this Google box at the top and... here's a couple links:
http://brianflys.net/2008/01/04/hog-wil ... ng-safety/
http://www.meretrix.com/~harry/flying/n ... iving.html

JHWellington
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Re: Jeb on Airspeed

Postby JHWellington » Thu May 08, 2008 3:12 pm

Thanks Landis. It appears GA is anywhere between 5 to 9 times more fatal than driving (but safer than riding a motorcycle). GREAT, just the statistic I need to get the non-flying wife motivated! :shock:

Back to the drawing board......
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PilotBillFromTexas
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Re: Jeb on Airspeed

Postby PilotBillFromTexas » Thu May 08, 2008 4:45 pm

I liked what Jeb had to say (paraphrasing) about the fact that we could all huddle indoors safe and sound and eventually die of atrophy anyway.

Dave Higdon
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Re: Jeb on Airspeed

Postby Dave Higdon » Thu May 08, 2008 6:10 pm

OK, guys, your discussion here got me to trying to fish back for some old memories about the relative safety of GA versus driving -- and making direct mile-by-mile comparisons can for sure be difficult...I mean, the country has just over a couple-hundred thousand private airplanes, and more than a couple-hundred million cars and trucks...

We've got well over 100 million drivers but only about 600,000 pilots...makes comparisons tough...

But...

The consensus that keep popping into my head orbits this line: "The most dangerous part of flying is the drive to the airport."

Why is this supposedly true: Because of the higher probability of suffering a car crash driving between home and airport on any given trip.

Take a look at the rate of accident and fatalities as reported for 2007 by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation in the annual Nall Report:

"The general aviation fixed-wing safety record continued its improvement in 2006, reaching historic lows for both total (1,319, down 8.3 percent from 2005) and fatal accidents (273, down 6.5 percent). Also of note maneuvering flight, a consistent leader in fatalities, dipped significantly from 80 (33.1 percent) fatal accidents in 2005 to 54 (25.0 percent) in 2006." You can download the entire report at this link: http://www.aopa.org/asf/publications/07nall.pdf

Now, compare to the Fed's numbers for 2006 (the most-recent year available):

"42,642 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2006. The Institute publishes statistical facts about the motor vehicle safety picture in 2006, the most recent year for which fatality data are available. Fatality Facts are updated once a year, when the US Department of Transportation releases data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)."

This came from this web site: http://www.iihs.org/research/default.html

How does this all translate? Well, every couple of years I lose a friend or two to aviation; in the same time frame, I usually know of more people hurt or killed on the roads...

Up there there's less traffic -- far less -- and getting a license is involved enough to weed out lots of boneheads who easily obtain a driver's license...although it does happen, it happens so rarely that I never really worry about the sobriety of people in the air around me -- if I see an aircraft weaving, it's usually a tailwheel driver working to see the taxiway ;)

And just me personally, I've driven so little long-distance in the past 13 years that getting on the Interstate or thruways of a major metro area (Wichita does not qualify here...) actually makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I'm actually more at ease flying an ILS on an average IMC day than driving the Beltway around D.C....

So there you are...some of it's relative, some concrete -- and none wholly, totally without risk...

...after all, until I move to a house on a runway, I'm stuck with the drive to and from the airport -- and it doesn't feel as safe as an 800-mile XC flight in IMC...not to me.

JHWellington
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Re: Jeb on Airspeed

Postby JHWellington » Fri May 09, 2008 10:01 am

Dave:

You're ignoring the facts provided by your friends, the US government. If you go to the link posted by Landis (http://www.meretrix.com/~harry/flying/n ... iving.html), Harry Mantakos clearly makes the case using statistics for 2004 that GA is NOT safer than your drive to the airport. According to the data presented, the best case scenario is comparing miles traveled by car vs. plane, which comes out as between 5 to 9 times as many fatalities per mile traveled. Worst case scenario is based on hours spent traveling by car vs. plane, which comes out to between 21 and 33 times the number of fatalities per hour of operation.

Sure, most of us spend many more hours in our cars than our planes, but in my case, it works out to be about the same amount of miles. I drive about 24,000 miles a year, assuming I average 40mph, then I've spent about 600 hours in my car. I've logged about 150 hours in the last year and at an average of 150mph that would be about 22,500 miles traveled by plane. So Mr. Mantakos' math works -- dividing the 21 to 33 range by 4 (600 car hours/150 plane hours) gets right back to the mileage statistics of between 5 to 9 times as likely to have a fatal accident in my plane than my car.

I have always believed flying was safer than driving, but I think we've been fooling ourselves by hiding behind the commercial aviation safety record. GA seems to be a different story. For me, it's worth the risk, but I don't want to mislead potential passengers by telling them it's safer than driving when the statistics seem to point a different conclusion.
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champguy
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Re: Jeb on Airspeed

Postby champguy » Sat May 10, 2008 10:18 am

Who is fooling themselves?
I never scud run, well almost never.
I never do buzz jobs, well never if anyone is watching, of course it wouldn't be fun if no one was watching.
And most important, I never say "hey, watch this".
I did do that VFR into IMC thing. God has made it very clear that if I ever do that again He won't bail me out twice. That one still scares me.
We all count on the "accidents" happening to less enlightened others, whoever they are.
Be safe, fly your best, every time.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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Landis
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Re: Jeb on Airspeed

Postby Landis » Sat May 10, 2008 12:38 pm

I'd always heard the "most dangerous part of the flight is the drive to the airport" and that's what originally made me look into the stats several years ago. And I do think after this discussion and after a *little* bit more research that GA is still more dangerous in *general* than driving. BUT that's not going to stop me from flying or from riding my motorcycle for that matter.

One thing about GA accident statistics that really comforts me (that's probably the wrong word, but you get the idea) is that it seems that the overwhelming majority of accidents are caused by pilot error. Now think back to the last time you got in a car accident - was it your fault? If it was, have you corrected the behavior? If it wasn't, what can you do? (Buy a bigger SUV?)

When I'm flying, the airplane is safe. I've made sure of that on the preflight. My mechanic or FBO's mechanic has put his/her name, reputation, and job on the line to sign the logbooks when it was last in for service (not as valuable as my life, but still much more comforting than an auto mechanic's "you should be good to go now"). Now it's up to ME to fly safely. To not get into situations that I can't get out of. To honor the fact that my non-pilot passengers have trusted me with their LIVES. Sure there's the occasional yahoo pilot out there who ignores what ATC says and turns downwind directly opposite me and tries to make me into a hood ornament, but I can also (partially) control that too by being aware.

When I get back in my car I can still drive safe, but I don't preflight, I don't worry that a blown tire will put me into a spin on the highway, and I don't always make the call that it's not worth going because the weather is bad. Oh, and the other yahoos this time are driving next to me at 75 mph not 3 feet from my car or, worse, converging at 120+ mph going the opposite direction fiddling with their iPod.

When I take people flying I make sure that they understand the risks AND what I'm doing to mitigate those risks. For me, personally, I do everything I can to make sure that flying in a small airplane is safer than the drive to the airport. But statistically I confess that it's not.

ric
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Re: Jeb on Airspeed

Postby ric » Sat May 10, 2008 7:23 pm

I like to look at it this way. My chances of colliding with another airplane are extremely small, so for the most part I can avoid accidents by diligent adherence to maintenance and safety guidelines. I could be wrong, but there seems to be a far higher percentage of knuckleheads driving cars than flying airplanes. (That may start a whole new thread.) Regardless of the statistics, and having survived one head-on auto crash (the other guy was drunk), I like my chances behind the yoke better.

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champguy
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Re: Jeb on Airspeed

Postby champguy » Sun May 11, 2008 9:00 am

An A & P will put his name on the logs "good to go". But have you ever found one who will come along for the test flight? I haven't. Even a car mechanic will take a spin around the block in your rig.
We all feel the horror when a kid drives by with a cell phone glued to her ear, but fly with headsets on yack'n away with "traffic" or some guy sitting in a bunker whose worst fear is that he might get put up in a tower, the tallest building near an airport. Hell theres planes out there.
You drive along and see someone fiddling with a CD or radio and and say "not me by god", then fly a glass pannel with umteen buttons, nine modes, twenty seven menues each with untold submenues, all in colour as bright as the latest game boy toy. Smell envy there?
Point of all this? As Pogo so aptly said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
Fly safe, make your preflight count, and don't run into anything solid, at least not while your head is down in the boy toy punching buttons on gizmos I can't afford or figure out.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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