✈ 🦺 Air Travel | Choices regarding safety

[ The quotation below is from another thread ]

When it comes to planning a trip, the question of relative safety often comes up: some airlines are said to be safer than others.
For example:

I have often wondered how one would meaningfully compare safety records of airlines, considering when and for how long different companies have been in service, the kinds of planes in service, the number of planes in use, the numbers of starts and landings, the flight routes, the planes that changed ownership, and all the other variables there might be…

With regard to the question of airline safety, i would certainly would want to consider also how companies and situations have changed: for example, if China Airlines hasn’t had a crash in the last 9 years, even though until 2002 it had what is generally considered a rather high accident record, is it OK to think of them as a safe airline now? On the other hand, what if EVA or ANA (one of the two large Japanese airlines) had a crash tomorrow, would it be justified to doubt their overall level of safety then?

And what about the flight routes: if we choose between a safer route (one that usually has no extreme weather situations) but take a carrier that has a higher accident record vs. an unsafer route (one that often has extreme weater situations) where we take a carrier that has a higher safety record - how do these factors influence each other? And then there is the question of airport safety: are not some airports considered more accident prone than others, due to circumstances of geography and weather?

Is it possible to make rational choices when it comes to air travel safety or are we condemned to “flying blind”?

DP (sorry)

The fairest way might be to look at the accident rate times X flights. In other words how many crashes in the span of how many flights. Airlines with 3000 flights per day therefore are more exposed in a calendar year because they would have flown 3000 x 365 flights in that calendar year or say 1,095,000 flights.

But most people think of how long since the last crash.

Say airline A flies 3000 flights per day and therefore flies 1,095,000 flights in the calendar year but say it had one accident each year. The percentage will remain the same as airline B who flies that number of flights in ten years but has one accident each ten years.

Airline B will be considered “safer” but actually is equally safe/unsafe as airline A in terms of accidents per million flights.

Also people tend to have “collective memory” . That is to say just think of how many times they have heard of an air crash by such and such an airline.

For example China Airlines has over fifty years of operations. And in that time they have had a certain number of crashes. People consider them less safe then a brand new airline that has never had a crash who has only been service say 5 years.

In that case PERCEPTION becomes the REALITY, even though it really isn’t.

AS to which routes are safer and which airports , for example, are safer. Again it is hard to judge. HOng Kong’s old airport KaiTak was a black star airport. It was considered one of the most dangerous and most difficult airports to land at. And yet its accident history is no more then that of Taoyuan (which is considered quite safe to land and take off at). Effective safety management kept KaiTak from being the dangerous airport it could actually have been.

An accident will happen with any airline sooner or later … that’s a given. So, you never know if the plane you’re on is the doomed one …

But, I guess it’s safer flying with SAI than with ITBA (In-The-Boonies Air)

Actually China Airlines had a horrible reputation not just because of accidents but because people in the industry were aware that substandard maintenance and safety checks were SOP within the company. My dad worked for Air Canada and they used to send guys over in the 80s to Taiwan. They came back with the most appalling stories about China Airlines.

If you were supposed to use 50 pounds torque to fasten a certain bolt the Taiwanese guys would never bother checking, but use whatever the previous setting was on the power wrench. If regulations required 12 turns (I am not a mechanic so forgive my vocab) they might do 7 and say that was good enough.

It was chabuduo all the way. My father made me swear when I first came to Taiwan that I would never fly that airlines.

I’m extremely nervous on airplanes and think of this stuff all the time. I avoid China Airlines at all cost. Perhaps they have improved in the past nine years, but I’d just as soon not take the chance. I know, sitting here in my living room, that even on the worst of airlines the chances of an accident are slim, but my brain doesn’t work that way once I’m strapped in and there’s no turning back.

I never really thought of different airports having safer conditions until a few weeks ago when I flew out of St. John’s, Newfoundland sitting next to an Air Canada pilot who told me that this particular airport was one of the worst he encountered for landings. Wind, fog, freezing rain. He also pointed out that no pilot would land in a potentially dangerous situation. I have to say this guy was very helpful and throughout the flight explained a lot of things to me. Made my trip as far as Tokyo a little less stressful. Then I boarded a Japan Airlines flight to Kaohsiung that still had ashtrays in the armrests and I am thinking “How old is this frigging deathtrap”, time to pop one of the little pink pills the doc gave me for flying.

I think airline safety is usually measured in passenger deaths per million flight hours.
Well, statistics are great, but let’s not forget that Quantas, one of the worlds safest airlines, was involved in two very serious incidents this year and these could well have put Quantas at the bottom of the pile. I guess there is always an element of luck involved somewhere, and there are many airlines around that are just waiting to have a very serious accident.

The regulatory body for a country is a good place to look. Major industrialised countries generally have very strict regulatory bodies. The FAA (US) and the CAA (UK) are two of the strictest. Any airline which flies from a country which has a strict regulatory body can be regarded as safe. Any airline which flies to a country which has a strict regulatory body is also required by that body to have very high standards of maintenance, crew training and operating procedures in order to offer services to that country. Other standards, such as noise abatement and emissions, have to be met.

But having said that, there are so many variables to take into consideration regarding the safety standards of a given airline and the flight which you are about to board:

Average crew age, crew training, maintenance procedures and standards, total time on aircraft, age of fleet, number of cycles of aircraft, crew hours and experience, crew experience on type, crew turnaround times and rest periods, topography surrounding destination and departure airports, airports flown to, route density, standard of ATC in departure and destination country, airport maintenance and air operations for dept. and dest. airports, crew training and procedure, crew training background (civil v’s military) country of origin of crew, crew culture and discipline, standard of maintenance contractors in host countries, typical weather en-route, dept. and dest, profit margin of airline, airline overheads, density of traffic of departure, destination and countries flown over, quality and standard of en-route ATC and radar services, long haul or short haul flight and crew workload, number of crew and crew management for the flight, time of day of flight, time of year of flight, whether your flight is delayed or not…

…and that list is just off the top of my head.

lol interesting. TO be honest, the only airline i dislike more than china airlines is air canada… I personally found Japan airlines (from vancouver to japan twice and taiwan to japan about 4 times) to be quite nice. In fact it is one of my preferred ones, but i have not used them very much.

I just took the flight from Taidong to Orchid Island, that flight was freaky to me. Very windy so the whole flight wasnt shaky, but bouncy (great for people who get motion/travel sickness badly). And on landing he did a u turn pretty fast to land which im pretty sure was a 1 wheel touching landing for half the strip. I honestly damn near spewed all over the seat in front of me :frowning: the return flight wasnt that bad though.

On Orchid Island and Green Island if you landed right side up, its a good landing.

Oh…they’re not that bad. For the amount of flights they do every week, I think the pilots of those planes are pretty good.

Quite true really. I think their last upside down was maybe 15 to 20 years ago?

Really bad things can still happen to first class airlines: This brings home TRAINING AND MORE TRAINING FOR WHAT IF SITUS AND OTHER SITUATIONAL AWARENESS.

Air France 447
popularmechanics.com/technol … 47-6611877

SQ 006 in CKS
airlinesafety.com/editorials … ore006.htm

Honestly if you step foot on a road, hop on a scooter or ride in a car in Taiwan you have no business worrying about airline safety. A plane crash is the last thing I think about when ordering a plane ticket.

I have one superstition revolving around flying: never ever call anyone from the airport upon landing to tell them that I’ve arrived safely. I know full well that the drive between the airport and home/ the hotel is far more dangerous than the flight, and I start to feel seriously jinxed if I tell someone “OK, I made it!”.

Very true. And I realize this as I weave in and out of traffic and it doesn’t bother me at all. But when that plane starts bouncing around at 35-40 thousand feet something snaps and all rational thought seems to go out the window, I tense up, heart starts pounding and I have to focus on just taking a breath of air.

Air Canada, while their service is a disgrace to the country, especially on domestic routes, I believe are one of the safest airlines in the world, with well trained pilots and ground crew.

The service on JAL was great, just the age of the plane that had me a bit shaky.

Very true. And I realize this as I weave in and out of traffic and it doesn’t bother me at all. But when that plane starts bouncing around at 35-40 thousand feet something snaps and all rational thought seems to go out the window, I tense up, heart starts pounding and I have to focus on just taking a breath of air.

My thoughts when this happens are ‘damn it, I wanted to sleep.’

Yeah, well with the 447 flight, which I followed closely, it’s difficult to say what one would do in that situation. Coffin corner is a dangerous place to be, especially when maxed out with fuel. General simple procedures regarding the identification of which law the aircraft was flying in, distractions regarding the speed readings and failures regarding very basic crew management all lead to the collapse of any logic when the crew became disoriented in weather.
The aircraft gave so many hints as to what was happening so therefore very minimal training should have been enough to see the crew through what is not really an exceptionally uncommon situation to be in.
Pilots are used to routine, but once a flow is interrupted it is easy to miss a simple omission which can lead to eventually to disaster, and unless good crew management exists (which it usually does) then a situation has the ability to unravel quickly, as was the case with 447.

As t’others say, you are quite right, but I do have a problem rationalizing that. Part of that problem is the fact that if something does go wrong with your flight, you can’t just put the brakes on and stop (think train, car, bus etc.). And if that problem is terminal, the last few minutes of your life could be a terrifying adrenalin-soaked ride on a rollercoaster from hell. I check in on http://www.planecrashinfo.com/ and http://aviation-safety.net/index.php from time to time to see what has been crashing and where :slight_smile:. You’d have a hard job getting me on board a Mt. Everest sight-seeing trip, or a Chinese / Russian internal flight.

Still don’t fly China Air as I’m not convinced that the maintenance side can be up to scratch (reinforced by living here and having my Ford constantly patched up).

The big carriers - you’ve just got to play and take your chances. If you’re very safety conscious (and I don’t go this far), then buy tickets that allow late changes, and only go ahead with your travel if there is no moderate to severe weather forecast at departure and arrival airports.

Many have made the point that so much of today’s training for new pilots resolves around electronic fly-by-wire operation. There is much less hands-on flying than there used to be, and most young long-haul pilots today have never been in an operational situation where they are required to think ‘outside-the-box’. The AF447 co-pilots failed to recognise and respond to a stall situation, apparantly staying confused by the air speed indications that the frozen pitot tubes were providing. They failed to triage the situation in time, and even when the pilot returned to the cockpit, all 3 of them continued to raise the plane’s nose to reduce the (apparently) excessive speed.

There’s something to be said for having a grizzled air-force vet in charge of your Airbus or Boeing.

Well, this is one of the problems. As with training, you can find yourself on the flight deck in relatively little time operating massive jets like the 777. Many F/O’s only have experience on one kind of (non training) aircraft. I think that career progression should mean just that: starting on short haul turbo-prop routes, with a minimum of hours PIC required to transfer to larger, more automated aircraft.
Flying a Dash 7, although less prestigious, on a short hop takes a bit more concentration and skill, with a bit more hands on flying, than it does to pilot a bigger, more automated jet over longer distances. Most aircraft now are flown entirely through the FMC, including climb outs through SID’s. Everything from the runway conditions and OAT through to thrust settings at different altitudes is set through the FMC, so even on take off, pilots have a lot of the work done for them. Even CAT III landings are done through automation - in fact this is required - they don’t even really need look out of the window and minimums are more relevant to taxiing than for the actual landing.

There is a saying:

If you have a thousand hours on an airliner, you fly the same hour a thousand times.
If you fly anything less, you fly one thousand different hours.

I think those thousand different hours should be mandatory before one is let lose on a jet. In fact, an ATPL should be unfrozen on a prop or small regional jet before conversion to a larger type. But we live in days of corner cutting and money saving and I don’t see any change on the horizon.

I’m a glutton for punishment. All this talk freaks me out worse than I already am but I am drawn to it. Just as I watch National Geographic’s Air Crash Investigation whenever I have the chance. Something that amazed me from one episode concerning the crash of Swissair flight 111 in 1998 is that the standard procedure when the pilot gets a scent of smoke is to basically do nothing and wait for it to go away.

Then there are stories like The Gimli Glider that give me a lot of confidence in pilots but not so much the ground crew.

Crosswind landings also scare the brown stuff out of me.