Planes are very safe, and chances are you've been told as much. "You're more likely to die on your drive to the airport than you are in the sky," and all that. But do you know why planes are so safe? It's not just because plane crashes are rare (though they most definitely are). It's also because even if you do find yourself involved in a plane crash, you've actually got a greater than 95% chance of surviving. Ninety-five percent.
Looking at all the commercial airline accidents between 1983 and 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board found that 95.7% of the people involved survived. Even when they narrowed down to look at only the worst accidents, the overall survival rate was 76.6%.
I was talking about this fact with a pilot friend over the weekend, and he mentioned one crash in particular that is an excellent example of the statistics in action. On July 19, 1989, United Airlines Flight 232 lost all its hydraulic controls and landed in Sioux City, Iowa, going more than 100 mph faster than it should have been. You can see the plane breaking apart and bursting into flames in the video above. Turns out, that's what a 62% survival rate looks like.
I mean, you're hurtling through the sky in a giant tube of metal that weighs hundreds of thousands of pounds. A 76.6% rate of survival (or 95.7%, for that matter) sounds like pretty damn decent odds, considering, wouldn't you say?
Read more, including more info on Flight 232, over at boingboing.