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Airplane Safety Tips

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

We'll be traveling to England next summer, and am worried about flying. I don't always dwell on the plane possibly crashing, but it does cross my mind. Do you know of any way to ease my concerns?


Anxious on airplanes

Dear Anxious on airplanes,

Plane crashes are televised widely and constantly, which gives the impression that flying is unsafe.

However, aviation safety researcher, Professor Arnold Barnett of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has calculated that the odds of dying in a plane crash to be 1 in 90 million. These odds can be looked at like this: you could fly once a day for 250,000 years before dying in a plane crash (Sherwood, The Great Plane Crash Myth, 2009).

Barnett observes that airplane "emergencies are becoming rarer and rarer and the observed survival rate given the emergency" is going up (Borenstein, Plane crashes becoming more survivable, 2009).

Some tips to be safer when flying:

1) Choose nonstop flights. Most airline accidents occur during takeoff or landing, so take nonstop flights to avoid as much takeoff and landing as possible. Direct flights are not necessarily nonstop, be sure and check with the reservation agent.

2) Always keep your seatbelt fastened even after the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign. Air turbulence can happen quite suddenly and without warning.

3) Listen to the flight attendant during the preflight safety instructions. Review the passenger safety information card located in the seat pocket in front of you.

4) Note where the nearest exits are and count the number of rows you are from them. In a survivable crash, smoke can make it difficult, if not impossible, to visually see the exits.

5) Wear sensible clothes. Do not wear high heels as they will have to be taken off during evacuation with the airplane slide causing delays if time is precious. See letter below, "Plane Clothes May Save Your Skin."

You can find safety information about airlines and airport status at the Federal Aviation Administration website at

More information about Arnold Barnett can be found at