Thomas Frank’s recent article in USA Today has garnered a lot of press. If that was the intention, then I say nice job. However, if the goal was to promulgate an informative conveyance of accurate information to start a healthy dialogue on aviation safety, then I’ll withhold my accolades. That being said, there will certainly be enough retorts to his “journalism”, so I’ll not add to that. What I will do is to propose a challenge to my readers.
I am going to assume that everyone reading this has the human ability for rational thought, and the ability to come to their own conclusion. My challenge is this: do your own research. Anyone can gather facts and manipulate them in such a manner so as to distort the truth.
Start by visiting your local airport. There will most likely be some people hanging out in the main terminal. Ask them their opinion. They are probably in the later stages of their life and have been flying for most of their life. If they are talking to you, then they survived flying “dangerous” airplanes. Sure, they may know someone who was killed in a plane crash, but I personally know several people who were killed in automobile crashes and killed by drunk drivers. So does everybody else.
Next, find a local flight school. There is probably one at your local airport. Talk to a flight instructor. Believe it or not, flight instruction in “little” airplanes has one of the smallest accident and fatality rates of any segment of the aviation industry.
Next, go find a friend or a friend of a friend who is a pilot. What is their opinion? What are they most concerned about when they go flying? Ask them this while they are doing their detailed pre-flight inspection on their airplane.
Finally, look at the numbers. The current U.S. pilot population, including all certificates from the student pilot to the airline pilot, is approximately 617,000 according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2011 data. Do you think 617,000 people are delusional about the safety of their profession and/or hobby? Why would that many people participate in something if their life was in jeopardy every time they did it? Yes, I have been around aviation for most of my life, but it isn’t that fun.
Again, my point here is not to spit out more facts to refute anyone’s claim to a certain conclusion. Folks, have a conversation with a pilot or aviation enthusiast. There is a reason why they are passionate about it, and it is not because the alleged danger provides an adrenaline rush.