How Flying Became The Safest Way To Travel

Illustration for article titled How Flying Became The Safest Way To Travel
Screenshot: Real Engineering (YouTube)

YouTuber Real Engineering says that your chances of dying flying in a commercial jet operated by one of the “top 30” airlines are 1 in 20 million. That’s generally considered the safest way to get around, thanks in large part to how far flying technology has come in the last 100 years.

This video has the somewhat pessimistic title of “Why Airplanes Crash” but it’s really more of a brief history of what technological, scientific and social breakthroughs that aeronautical incidents have brought about.

Early air mail pilots apparently had a horrific one-in-four chance of “dying at the controls,” while today commercial air travel is extremely safe thanks largely to the advancements this video runs through.

From radio beacons to the little needles outside an airplane’s cockpit (“pitot tubes”) to round windows, the humble checklist and even our understanding of the meteorological phenomenon known as a microburst were all developed by trial and error over the history of human flight.


Today, modern commercial planes have extremely precise navigation systems and “drive-by-wire” systems similar to what you get in modern cars, preventing pilots from making mistakes.

I still think flying’s pretty scary myself, but only because you never know if you’re going to have to sit next to somebody who’s loud or smelly or gross. Generally speaking, it’s the safest way to travel and this video explains why.

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles

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Drakkon- Most Glorious and Upright Person of Genius

Back in the early days of the jet-age, only wealthier people flew and they treated it like it was special. Smoking aside, I would beg to go back.

If there is smoking, then no. I’ll stay here.

The smelly, gross people is not a minor deal. People flying in their pajamas. It’s really awful. I flew to Vegas one time across the aisle from a woman in jammy pants and a thin tank top and I swear to the Dog Alrighty, she was were those foam flip flops that women wear from a pedicure. That was it. Those four items of clothing. I’m counting the shoes as two items. It was disturbing. When my grandmother flew in the mid-60s, she wore gloves and a hat. No, I did not say ONLY gloves and a hat. But that would be funny.