Good morning!

First of all, may I compliment Keith on this new website, which looks great and is very interesting to browse. I am very grateful that all these resources are available and so much time is being spent on helping us all. Many thanks for this.

It occurs to me that a lot of the information is about why planes stay up in the air rather than crashing - laws of physics, etc.

However, planes occasionally do crash. What is usually the reason? In recent years, what have been the reasons for major plane crashes (apart from the September 11 attacks), what went wrong on these if every safety precaution is always taken? I am thinking in particular of the Madrid crash, the crash in Brazil in 2007, the 1992 Airbus A320 Air France flight crash in France.

My boyfriend is in Greece and I will have to fly back and forth from London if want to see him, so I would give anything for being even a tiny bit less terrified than i've been the past 3 years...

Thanks again for all your help

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Hi Clairamandine

The history of flying shows us that accident causes have changed during the years. In the early days technical failures were the problem. Then came the problems of aircraft development and lack of knowledge. Both these failures caused a lot of accidents. Now the emphasis is on Human failure because the machines are almost perfect.

What ever we do there is an element of risk and we each assess it differently, to me flying is perfectly safe and the chances of an accident are minimal, to me swimmimg in the sea where there are sharks seems very dangerous, some people don't like boats.
The result is that if I read or hear that someone has been eaten by a shark it confirms my prejudice. I don't stop to think of all the millions of swimmers that haven't been eaten.

You mention those accidents...the Madrid one still has to be investigated, the Brazil one I hadn't heard of so can't comment on and the Air France one was during an air display where the plane was asked to do something it wasn't designed to do. Planes crash, cars crash, boats sink and people fall down stairs there's no denying it but the question you must ask is What are the chances of it?

It may take you a little time to 'normalise' flying and to remove some of your terror, but stay with us ask questions read and watch and you'll find that your impressions will change. I had a safe 40 year career in flying and nothing happened to me. My children saw me go to work and come back again...just a job to them and just a job to me.

Hope this begins to help. Keep asking me questions..I'll never get tiired of answering them.


Thanks Keith,

Do we known the proportion of victims of a plane crash who die in the impact itself compared to those who die in the ensuing fire / explosion? I know this would be very hard for forensics to assess but i was wondering whether there were some data on this?

Many thanks
I'm afraid I don''s not the sort of statistic that I follow. It's invaluable to know where the exits are...theres a bit of data on that.

Hi there Faerr

Epidemiology is the study of diseases in populations, which would explain why their journal doesn't address the question of death in plane crashes.

I agree with you about the media loving stories of lots of people dying at once, and that they are generally not asking the right questions. Still, the concern of a lot of people with a fear of flying, I guess, is not that many people will die at once, but that they might "fall" and die themselves, individually, and if they do, how.

In this sense, I would think perhaps that reports of planes crashing, whether there are 3 fatalities or 300, are, to fearful flyers, equally as scary.
To put your fear into perspective with mine - I am a very nervous flyer but last March on a bright Sunday afternoon I actually saw a Cessna aircraft fly over my roof. I knew it was in trouble because firstly it wasn't on its usual flight path for landing, and it was far, far, too low, and I could hear no engine noise whatsoever. I live not far from Biggin Hill airport. I tracked it as it went past and sadly I also witnessed it crash about a quarter of a mile away into some houses and it burst into flames on impact. I was one of the first people to dial 999. I actually gave a statement to the Air Accident people because I had tracked the plane for its last few minutes. It had a very bad effect on me and it upset me greatly as you can imagine. At the time I actually thought it was coming into land, but in fact it had just taken off when it sent out a Mayday and was returning to the airport. Five people died. Fortunately the two houses involved in the crash were empty as the occupants were not in at the time thank goodness. It is very rare for this to happen and if the pilot had managed another 200 yards he would have landed in a field, but the little plane must have run out of puff. After an extensive investigation they still do not know the cause, no bird strike, no debris on runway, nothing found wrong with engines or anything else on board, etc. Was it pilot error? We will never know. Why am I telling you this you may ask if not to make you feel worse? Well, last Year I had to take two flights, one to Naples in June and one to Lesvos in September. As a nervous flyer anyway, and my worse nightmare being the take-off, after actually witnessing a plane crash it made me even worse, but then I visited Captain Keith's site. Before the flight I had a coffee and was watching all the planes queuing up ready to take off on the runway. I just watched them all, saying to myself - they take off every couple of minutes - they are all absolutely fine. By time it was my turn to take-off I still hyperventilated, but I said to myself relax and breath slowly, very slowly, and by time I knew it we had levelled out and then I was fine, even with some turbulance later on in the flight. Flying back again I was a little better, then a little better on the Lesbos flight. I'm not cured, but each time it gets a little easier. The point I am trying to make is, that people drive their cars every day and never give a thought to having a crash. Flying is the safest form of transport, and when you think how many millions of people from all over the world are 'up there' every minute of the day, it does put it into perspective. Flying IS the safest form of transport, but when we have a real fear of something you always think its going to be you, on your flight, that something is going to happen, when the simple truth is it will be an uneventful flight with possibly some turbulance but turbulance isn't dangerous and nor is flying.
Good morning! excellent website!

I know we should all concentrate on the positive and the probabilities instead of the what if's but... I still cant understand why planes do crash if there are so many safety features. I was ok with flying before one flight the wind was so bad we couldn't land on the first attempt, admittedly the second attempt was fine. the main thing which has made me terrified of flying is because the day before we flew out to Kenya a plane crashed which was headed to the airport we were going to and with the same airline, i don't think they ever found out why it crashed though, they were also deporting 5 or 6 very unhappy Kenyans on my flight so that made it a lot worse to! do you have any ideas why the plane crashed in the cameroon in 2007?
just say IF the engines did cut out in mid flight(for example by a flock of birds which i think it was reported thats what happened to the one the other day - not sure if its true or not), would the plane just drop and crash to the ground or is it possible for the pilot to glide it down and still land ok?

thank you very much
Quick reply the plane wouldn't fall out of the sky because it will glide...just like the Space shuttle does when it comes into land.

I'll look up the incident you refere to and let you know. Longer answer later

...and of course this isn't the actual website this is just the network

here is the main site
more people are killed each year by vending machines (trying to tip them over) than die in plane crashes...we never ask why...i'm a nervous flyer myself, but you have to remember, when you ask about statistics, that the statistics tell you that you are never in a safer place than when on that plane.
stick to this site, people help each other here and you'll be just fine.

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