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This Is When Are Accidents Most Likely to Happen During a Flight

Picture of Alice Johnston
Social Content Producer
Updated: 16 February 2018

For nervous flyers, being on a plane can be a terrifying experience.

From your perspective, anything could go wrong at any time. That weird noise you just heard? It’s obviously a failing engine. The seat belt light’s gone on? Turbulence could mean disaster.

While we can’t take your nerves away completely, we can make you feel a whole lot better by educating you about what you really need to worry about – and what you don’t.

Are you a nervous flyer? | <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">© Elizabeth Camp/Unsplash</a>

Are you a nervous flyer? | © Elizabeth Camp/Unsplash

Statistically, flying is one of the safest ways to travel. There is a 0.1% chance of dying in an air or space transport accident. That’s one in 9,821.

According to new information from US aerospace firm Boeing, if an accident does happen it’s more likely to occur during certain parts of flights than others.

The company analysed commercial flights all over the world from 2007–2016, and discovered that a full 48% of fatal accidents occurred during a flight’s descent and landing. These accidents were the cause of 46% of on-board fatalities. This a huge number when you consider this portion of a plane’s journey accounts for a mere 4% of the total journey.

Comfortingly, only 11% of significant accidents happened while cruising, even though this stage of the journey accounts for 57% of total flight time.

Flying is a very safe way to travel | <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">© Caleb Woods/Unsplash</a>

Flying is a very safe way to travel | © Caleb Woods/Unsplash

Perhaps unsurprisingly, taking off and the initial climb to full height is the second most risky part of a flight, and accounted for 13% of fatal accidents. Of these, however, a tiny 6% resulted in on-board fatalities.

This means that apart from the first and last few minutes of a flight, you can relax while on board.

If you’re in a crash, there are ways to protect yourself. John Cheshire, a retired US airline pilot, said: ‘I count the number of seats between me and that exit. It only takes a quick glance.

‘I do this so if ever necessary, I can in the dark, or under water, or if there is smoke, or if upside down, I know beforehand where the exit is, and I can blindly count the number of seats by touch to reach that emergency exit row, because I have counted them. It’s quick and easy to do, every time.’

Other tips include listening for specific noises or watching out for certain smells, and sitting in different places on a plane – sitting at the back, for instance, means you might be marginally safer in an incident but also means you’ll feel turbulence more, so isn’t recommended if you’re a nervous flyer.