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.

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Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL