The Odds of Surviving a Plane Crash

The Book of Odds takes a look at a question that flashes through the minds of many people the moment they board an airplane: what are your odds of surviving a plane crash? They found that “[t]he general survival rate for a casualty-inducing airline incident is about 38% or, in our parlance: your odds of survival are about 1 in 2.63.” That might seem pretty good, but Book of Odds points out that the distribution is a bit skewed: “[I]f we break up the data into buckets of survival rates we find that our heaviest bucket (by a long shot) is the one we’ve aptly titled ‘Certain Death,’ or, incidents in which there were no survivors.” Interestingly, the odds of certain death are about 1 in 2.63, the same as the odds of surviving. Over at Salon, Patrick Smith of “Ask the Pilot” has written on the same topic. [%comments]

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  1. Iljitsch van Beijnum says:

    So if 38% survives and 38% dies, what happens to the other 24%?

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  2. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    It is my impression that there are three kinds of plane crashes:

    1. Everyone survives the crash, perhaps except for a freak death like a isolated heart attack.

    2. Everyone dies and the plane is consumed in flame, explosion or is in 1000 ft of water.

    3. A few survive in a isolated tail or nose section and the majority die.

    WHERE IS THE SAFEST PART OF THE PLANE WHEN THERE ARE THE RARE SURVIVORS? IT seems the thickest part of the plane is over the Wingbox. But many examples have Back of the Plane Tail Survivors.

    People laugh when I wear my helmet on commercial flights.

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  3. Amy says:

    Iljitsch – I believe you misunderstood. The article is saying that 38% of people survive a plane crash, but also that if you’re in a plane crash, you have a 38% chance of being in one where no one survives. For the former statistic, it means that 62% of people who are in plane crashes die. For the latter statistic, it means that 62% of people who are in a plane crash are in one where at least one person survives. Different statistics.

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  4. Eileen Wyatt says:

    Presumably the other 24% receives life-threatening injuries, so they’re neither certain survivors in the immediate aftermath of the crash, nor are they dead. Yet. Call them Schrodinger’s passengers.

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  5. Neil (SM) says:

    I think they mean 38% of passengers in plane crashes are killed in plane crashes with no survivors. So the other 24% die in plane crashes where others survived.

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  6. jpbrun says:

    The other 24% are LOST!!!!

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  7. TJQ says:

    The other 24% end up in an episode of Lost.

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  8. Brian says:

    But they only include “crashes” where there was at least one casualty? Is it not possible to have a plane crash where no one dies?

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