Artemis Aerospace discussed the many myths and misconceptions about safety in air travel. Former commercial airline pilot and logistics manager at component supply specialist Artemis Aerospace, André Viljoen, goes over the misinformation about safe airline travel.
The idea that turbulence can cause a plane to crash is a common fear among pilots and passengers alike. While turbulence may be unnerving and in many cases uncomfortable, it is highly unlikely to cause a crash, Viljoen said.
An aircraft is meant to withstand most weather and cope with unpredicted weather events. Many safety measures are in place to test an aircraft on its durability in a potential storm or weather event, like snap tests or water and wind tests.
As unpredictable as the weather may be, no pilot would voluntarily fly through a storm and there are many rigorous tests and preventative measures taken to ensure a plane could withstand volatile weather like lightning, wind and water.
Viljoen said that the most likely situation is a minor injury to a passenger if they are not seated or strapped in during turbulence. Airlines avoid this likelihood by recommending passengers stay seated with their seatbelts fastened.
Many passengers fear that if the engine fails, the plane will crash. The majority of commercial airlines and private jets use twin-engine planes. Viljoen said these are designed to take off, fly and land safely on one engine.
Pilots undergo rigorous training and have extensive training on how to react to an emergent situation. If an engine were to fail the pilot would return to the nearest airport.
According to Viljoen, there is no safest seat on an aircraft. Based on data from past crashes and survival rates of passengers, Viljoen makes a recommendation for certain seats on the plane, like the back rows. Sitting in the back of the aircraft will increase the chances of survival in the case of a crash. For turbulence concerns, Viljoen recommended sitting in the front or over the wings where it is less bouncy.
Chances of being in a plane crash are around 1 in 20 million and chances of dying in one are 1 in 3.37 billion
Cabin Air Concerns
Viljoen said there is no evidence proving that aircraft cabin air recirculation will increase the risk of illness for passengers. Getting a cold or the flu after air travel is not caused by the air in the cabin.
Germs linger on hard surfaces, like the tray table. Most viruses travel through direct contact so washing hands and cleaning hard surfaces can be a preventative measures when traveling.
Every flight begins with a safety speech and demonstration, always involving an oxygen mask. The safety feature looming over passengers’ heads is used if an emergency occurs at a high altitude or if cabin pressure fails.
Pilots are trained to make an emergency descent to a lower altitude where oxygen is not needed. Oxygen masks are rarely used and Viljoen said the deployment is often accidental. In actuality, oxygen masks are rarely used as most emergent situations are handled by experienced pilots or do not require the masks.
Waste from an aircraft is deposited into a holding tank, Viljoen said. The waste is then stored until the plane can land and the ground staff empties the contents.
Viljoen said a possibility is leaking frozen sewage, or ‘blue ice’, but it is forbidden to drop waste while in the air and there is no way for the crew to release any.
A common misconception is that the planes may open mid-flight. Aircraft cabins are pressured meaning it would be impossible to open the door while in the air. At a typical altitude for flight, up to 3.5kg of pressure is pressing against all doors, Viljoen said. In total, there is more than 500kg of pressure.
It would be impossible for someone to overcome the amount of pressure in the cabin to open the doors, meaning this fear is not feasible.
Traveling by air is the safest long-distance method of travel. Pilots are rigorously trained and planes are heavily mandated and frequently checked for airworthiness, meaning the plane will be as safe as it can be. Passengers can feel at ease knowing these common beliefs are untrue or highly unlikely.