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. Jeff #3 says:

    Brian – It really depends on the definition of casualty that they’re using. It means ‘killed or injured’ but most people tend to focus on the killed part. A 2-seater aircraft could crash and have 100% casualties, but not deaths because it only resulted in a few broken limbs.

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  2. hanmeng says:

    How about the odds of crashing in the first place?

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  3. MW says:

    I have a major objection in that they don’t count crashes where everyone survives – for example, Air France 358 (runway overrun, Toronto, 2005) or US Airways flight 1549, ditched in the Hudson river, 2009.) These were clearly crashes by any reasonable definition of the word.

    I also have a minor objection. The context they describe (the airplane is coming down and you have several minutes to consider your fate) only applies to a subset of crashes (well under half I think). These crashes won’t have the same fatality statistics as the full set of crashes. (For that matter, sometimes when the plane is coming down the pilots will regain control and make a non-crash landing.)

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  4. Thom says:

    The plane crashed on the US/Canada border. The other 24% were buried…But where?

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  5. Nikki says:

    @Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team: according to a BBC documentary about plane crashes (don’t remember the title), the safer seats are those next to an emergency exit. Passengers sitting within seven rows of one are more likely to survive a crash than to die.

    They also pointed out that many people die because they can’t unbuckle their seatbelts under stress: they automatically attempt to do it the way they would in a car and obviously fail.

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