Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 12:28 GMT
Are the skies safe enough?

The crashes of an Alaska Airlines jet and a Kenya Airways Airbus have once again thrown the spotlight on the issue of aircraft safety.

News and Information for Africa
It's sometimes said that the sky is the safest transportation zone, yet air crashes are still relatively common.

Are the skies as safe as possible? Or do you think more can, and should, be done to make airlines safer? Is enough money being invested in maintaining aircraft? Are flight crews getting enough rest between flights?

I think we should wait until the flight data and voice recorders are analysed before making wild accusations and assumptions. I am still proud to be a Kenya Airways shareholder.
Sartaaj S Rihal, Kenya & Zimbabwe

The statistics prove air travel is the safest way - no arguments. The pilots are highly trained and skilled, the planes are maintained to an incredible level, vigilance and inspection by regulatory bodies is extremely strict, and ATC personnel do a fantastic job.
Yes there are always examples where the chain has failed, but compared to motoring these are rare. Pilots have saved countless planes from impending disaster by their skill and quick thinking in emergencies - I'd trust them with my safety in the air.
Andrew, UK

The Airbus is not safe. The Europeans are just fooling the World by claiming that it is 99% safe. It is the high time that the Americans and the Europeans stops taking the rest of the world as fools. Time has to change because the rest of the world is now waking up too.
James Wewa, Kenya

Relatively speaking, air transport is the safest because, given the world wide ratio of cars to aircraft, we see more cars involved in mishaps than aircraft. Secondly, the amount of money invested in procuring aircraft guarantees a sense of understanding that safety devices are incorporated in the machines. The same can be said when comparing a Mercedes Benz car to a FIAT.
But, basing the argument on statistics of incidences of fatalities, then sky is not the safest "road" Every crash results in "all passengers and crew are feared dead"
Katongo Sichivula, Zambia

The Kenya Airways accident is a blot on an otherwise perfect record since 1977.
Jean, England
As as ex-Flight Stewardess of 16 years, I know that flying is the safest mode of travel, however, I am not so keen on the new aircraft that have only 2 engines, only 2 in the Flight Deck and the inability to override the computer.
Aircraft never dropped out of the sky on take-off in my 16 years, although there were plenty of other types of accident. The Kenya Airways accident is a blot on an otherwise perfect record since 1977.
Jean, England

Well, it all depends on what you mean by safe. Nothing is 100% safe. While I don't agree with those who consider travel by air to be suicidal, it is my opinion that more should be done to make the skies safer, in Africa and around the world.
Haileleul, Ethiopia

We must express condolence with the families and re-assure those in doubt that air travel is safe; accidents in all human endeavour is unavoidable.
However, the Kenyan Airlines crash provided another opportunity to attribute sinister and cynical journalism to the African situation. Without waiting for the facts, it must be the poor state of African airports, so the BBC's reporters rushed to tell the world.
Even the delay in tracing the flight recorder is attributed to this - true, but this has never been easy anywhere. Remember the number of days it took to get the one from Egyptair. Would the world (western) press who delight in only the woes of Africa leave its people to mourn the dead with provocation?
S. S. Adzei, Ghana

Flying is still by far the safest mode of transportation, unfortunately, when a serious accident occurs, several lives may be lost at an instant, hence the gory image, as opposed to an automobile accident for example where numbers are less.
Airlines and Nations of the world need to put into effect serious emergency rescue measures beyond the confines of airports and national borders, to avert loss of life in the inevitable event of tragic accidents.
Julius Ogash, USA

I hate flying and will go to great lengths to avoid it.
Mark, UK
My understanding is that air travel is only deemed to be the safest form of transport because accident statistics are based on the number of passenger miles rather than the number of passenger journeys.
If you use the latter as the basis for comparison between different modes of transport, then air travel becomes only less dangerous than riding a motorcycle. Personally, I hate flying and will go to great lengths to avoid it. (Ironically though, I ride a motorbike!) I think the recent Kenyan tragedy demonstrates that commercial air travel is far from being the safest means of transport.
Mark, UK

Media involvement just tries to scare the general public regarding the safety of today's airlines.
Joanne, Wales
Compared to the amount of accidents that occur on Britain's roads alone, the amount of air accidents still make it the safest way to travel. I am sorry for the families that have lost loved one on the recent Kenyan crash, however media involvement just tries to scare the general public regarding the safety of today's airlines.
Joanne, Wales

Their investment in air safety is greater than in any other human mode of travelling. Accepting human limitations is not to despair. It is a hard reality we all face. These days we easily become bitter when technology fails to safeguard life. Knowledge has grown tremendously but fate has remained stubborn and brutal!
Andrew Limo, UK

I find it all the more tragic that in this, as in countless horrific air tragedies before it, there is absolutely no guarantee that the flight recorders will deliver a satisfactory answer to the questions so many relatives will want to ask.
It is a depressing certainty that this will not be the last air disaster, and therefore isn't it time we addressed our ability to monitor and diagnose what went wrong as an essential part of preventing it from happening again. Clearly black boxes are no longer enough to monitor the ever more complex factors that may bring down an aircraft.
James Walford, Wales

You don't see every car crash plastered on the front page of the papers do you?
Tristan O'Dwyer, England
There are many things where more could be done to improve their safety. The thing to bear in mind is that we need to strike a balance between practicality, cost and being as safe as reasonably possible.
1,400 people killed by airbus in 12 years! That's just over 100 a year. Now think of the millions of people who travel a year. It is still statistically very safe (and there is no difference between "statistical safety" and real safety. Apart from a psychological difference). The very fact that loss of life through air crashes still makes such a big story in the media indicates how rare this is. You don't see every car crash plastered on the front page of the papers do you?
Tristan O'Dwyer, England

It is a terrible tragedy and I mourn and pray for the departed and their families. Until further investigation it is pointless to debate the causes of the crash.
Remigius, UK

Air safety appears to have taken a back seat to issues such as profit and privatisation recently. The push to get more people flying means more planes, more people and more stress on pilots, air traffic controllers and support staff.
A point will come where accidents will happen frequently because of human error or mechanical failure. The planes are ageing (25+ years?) and in today's capitalist environment are the last things an airline would want to replace because of their cost. It seems that most airlines are happy to see their planes - and passengers - retired in mid-flight for the sake of a little profit...
David W, UK

Again the scare mongers are out - "flying is dangerous" they cry, but I'd say 11 crashes in 12 years was a pretty good record. When compared to road or rail safety, air travel is the safest form of travel around. No one seems to mind that there was a major rail crash at Paddington only a few months ago.
Planes have to be maintained at the highest possible standard, as there are no break down services at 30 000 feet. With a car it is an inconvenience to break down. In a plane it means certain death. I for one feel much safer in a plane than driving amongst some of the mad-cap drivers on the UK's roads.
Simon, England

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

More Talking Point debates
Survival of the happiest?
Does the Dome need some Disney magic?
Do we work too hard?
Once a Villain, always a villain?
Are police too soft on hard drugs?
Haider: Is Europe over-reacting?
Should we sell our genes?
Should footballers be taught a lesson?
Is life better in the countryside?
Cup of Nations: Who will win?
Should there be tighter checks on doctors?
Are parents being blamed for cot deaths?
Teleworking: Does it ever work?

Links to other Talking Point stories