? asked in Cars & TransportationAircraft · 10 years ago

What is the statistical chance of my international flight crashing?

In a month or so I'll be going to Germany to visit my father. I'll be flying from Washington to Frankfurt, a flight which takes an average of eight hours. I know they say you have a better chance of getting in a car wreck on your way to the airport than on the actual flight, but this barely is keeping my fear down.

My two big fears are that, while we're still climbing, the engines will just stop, and we'll fall down to the earth, powerless. My second is that the the same thing will happen while we're just cruising through the air and we'll fall nose-first, again, powerless...now that I think of it, what if a bird gets caught and blended up in the engine? Would that make the engine "choke" and the plane fall?

Please give me a little detail here, I've never flown internationally and I'll be nervous throughout the whole thing :(

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  • 10 years ago
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    The chances of dying on a single airplane flight with a major American or European airline are roughly one in 53,000,000. These are about the same odds as those of winning a Powerball lottery jackpot.

    You need not worry about falling to the ground, even if the engines stop (which they never do). Airliners can easily glide, even without engine power, and in fact they glide down to the destination airport on every flight, after the engines are set to idle (gliding down with the engines idle is the most fuel-efficient way to descend).

    Engines are designed to tolerate ingestion of average-sized birds. A flock of large birds can shut down the engine, but you won't be meeting these at 36,000 feet. Bird strikes occur mostly during takeoff or landing. In most cases, the engines dice and roast the birds and spit them out the back.

    International flights are no more dangerous than domestic flights. There's a certain psychological impact to flying over water, but the airplane doesn't care whether it's flying over land or water. Water doesn't make the engines any less reliable, and they are very reliable.

    Engines are so reliable, in fact, that many airline captains today go through their entire careers without ever encountering a mechanical failure in a jet engine. They practice for them in the simulator, but they might never see one in real life.

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  • 10 years ago

    The chances of crashing while on a scheduled flight with a major airline are pretty remote. I've done the transatlantic flight from Britain to the US and back again, all without any major problems. There will be a bit of turbulence, and at times it will feel bumpy, but that's normal.

    Your biggest fears seem to relate to the aircraft losing power and falling.

    The likelihood of having all the engines fail is low. Even if a bird was sucked through one, the other three would be more than enough to keep you in the air.

    If the plane lost power while cruising at altitude, it would still be high enough to try and glide down to the nearest airport and make an emergency landing if you're close enough to land.

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  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    The probability of being a fatality on an airliner is over 300 times that of dying in an automobile... you are THREE HUNDRED TIMES more at risk driving eight hours in a car than flying 8 hours in an airliner, but you jump in a car without thinking about it...

    "the engines will just stop, and we'll fall down to the earth, powerless."

    how many times has your car engine JUST QUIT? airplane engines are THOUSANDS of times more reliable than a car, and there are at least TWO of them, the airplane will fly on ONE....

    "My second is that the the same thing will happen while we're just cruising through the air and we'll fall nose-first, again, powerless...now that I think of it, what if a bird gets caught and blended up in the engine? Would that make the engine "choke" and the plane fall?"

    How many times has that happened? Once in recent memory... You are more likely to be in a head on collision on the freeway.

    Your fears are irrational... If you choose to live in fear, you will have a miserable life.

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  • Pat
    Lv 4
    10 years ago

    According to the NTSB, there was one fatality for every ten million flights, or one fatality for every 10 billion miles flown, last year one the Part 121 carriers (the airlines in general, I'm sure the numbers are even bigger for international flights). If one bird clogs up the engine, you've got another one. If both engines go down, every plane is required by the FAA to have flotation and survival gear sufficient to support every person on board. Your fears are common, but unfounded in facts, as fears often are.

    If it's a very tangible fear, you could see a psychiatrist, maybe get a low dose antidepressant or something. If all else fails, take a half dose of Benadryl, that should calm you down a little bit. And just remember, more people are killed by lightning strikes than by airline plane crashes.

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  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    You have more of a chance of getting struck by lightning. Which let me ask you, have you been struck by lightning? If you have, go to the lottery!

    And a bird hitting the engine will cause the pilot to shut down the engine affected and land. With one engine or three/two (depending on the type of airplane) you are designed to be able to decently fly with one engine. With no engines working you can still be safe, just can't ascend anymore. You will glide for a long time if you are cruising up high. Even low, you can still land at a nearby airport. Look up the double bird strike of U.S. airways flight 1549. Thomson bird strike incident. A lot of airlines have had incidents where they made E-landings and everyone survived.

    Now if you were to crash you would still have a high chance of living. A high nose dive to the ground.. well that almost never happens!

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  • 4 years ago

    You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning or bitten by a rabid animal on your way to the airport. If you flew every single day for 10 years, your chance of being in a crash is less than your chance of winning a major lottery prize. You should really be worried about the car ride to the airport. One out of 18 people die in car accidents. Less than one in 54 million airline passengers is involved in a fatal aircraft accident.

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  • 10 years ago

    Probably less than 1 in 10.5 million. Just relax. Your flight will be just fine, your trip will be fabulous, and you'll meet the love of your life who will be sitting right next to you on the plane.

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  • ken k
    Lv 7
    10 years ago

    as we speak 10000 planes are now leaving airports/30000 people a year get killed in car crashes/they should make everybody fly and outlaw cars/soooooooo your odds of getting killed on the ground are much higher than flying//dont worry anymore than you have to/take a dramamine 1 hr before you start the flight

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  • greg f
    Lv 5
    10 years ago

    Last I heard from a reliable source who ran the numbers... they are about the same is winning the lottery. About 1 in 25 million.

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  • 10 years ago

    I've flown that route round-trip at least 20 times, and I'm still typing. One more to go to, next summer for vacation and my last airplane ride.

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