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Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 12:33 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.

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

What do you think? 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?

HAVE YOUR SAY Of course the skies are safe. I have just returned from a work experience placement within the aviation industry and there is no doubt that flying is by far the safest way to fly, as long as the airlines operate within legal limits.
Adam, Great Britain

Over the years those involved in the Airlines industry in union with governmental authorities have established essential guidelines. When, however, a pilot, mechanic or Airline decides to slide over a safety standard it jeopardises the lives of others. It might be akin to an automobile driver who slides through a stop sign rather than coming to a complete stop.
Lou Wise USA

I think one of the problems with the aircraft's is the age. Some of the aircraft's have outlived their existence. Mere routine maintenance is not sufficient. I guess everything is all about capital gains. It is very unfortunate, the number of air accidents in the past year is very alarming. I sure know something could be done to arrest this unfortunate accidents.
Toyin, USA

Air crashes happens even if the pilot is the "best one" and taking-off and landing were "perfect". Compared with a car or a train accident, the worst and devastating thing about an air crash is that it takes scores of people lives. International Airlines should think of the anger they can cause to many families and improve safety. On the other hand, to believe that the skies are not safe would be too radical. Nowadays travel with aeroplanes is as imperative as indispensable because of long distances. We have to bear in mind that we cannot do without them, especially if we consider the world as a "global village"
Thierry-Aime Yamga, Cameroon/uk

There is a percentage of error in all machines on this planet - and can be most fatal in aircraft machines. The number of air crushes seem to be increasing but I think airlines are doing a good job, This business is so complex and needs excellent systems put in place and I feel they are just doing that. They should just work much harder on flashing out any culprits in their organisations trying to vane out their frustrations on innocent passengers.
Clever Murambwa Haparari, Zimbabwe

Flying may be the safest way to travel statistically but when a disaster does occur it is usually of such a large scale that it makes you wonder whether your next and when you are it may be one of the most unlikeliest crashes to come out of alive.
Frex Streatfeild, England

Air safety is not the very first priority for the aerospace and airline industries, nor indeed the civil aviation authorities around the world. In practise there is always a trade-off between safety and cost-effectiveness. 'Fail Safe', the design standard in effect on modern aircraft, will not totally eliminate failure due to fatigue or other factors of all the parts, sub-structures, moving surfaces or systems of a given aircraft. Unless the manufacturers and operators really do put safety first, there will continue to be more accidents in the air than strictly necessary.
Simon Cameron, United Kingdom



it is true that air travel is the safest means of transportation. That is when you look at it statically
Jeff George, USA
Probably - it is true that air travel is the safest means of transportation. That is when you look at it statically. On the other hand, the way the accidents happen makes it rather very very hard to bear. People get killed in mass. Sometimes, a whole family member. Therefore, it is reasonable people are specially concerned about it. Furthermore, there are some questionable accidents such as Egypt Air crash a few months ago. Government and other concerned agents should pay extra attention to it.
Jeff George, USA

The technology of air travel hasn't changed dramatically since the replacement of piston engines with gas turbines. Most changes have been brought about for reduced costs to manufacturers and operators. The safety of the passengers is not put as high up on the list as it should be. Also, the argument that air travel has the fewest deaths per passenger mile is flawed in that you can't get off the 'plane halfway through the flight. When compared to deaths per journey, air travel comes out no better than car travel.
Greg, UK



The skies are safe, in fact safer than the roads in some African countries.
Vera, Ghana
The skies are safe, in fact safer than the roads in some African countries. I believe that more has to be done to enhance the safety of the few planes we have in Africa. Nothing should be taken for granted. The rampant air plane tragedies point to the fact that safety measures are much more to be desired.
Vera, Ghana

Every time a plane crashes it is news and lots of time and money spent to investigate the crash and forgotten. Basically plane crash is like a big car accident and will always happen.
Anil, UK

If people were meant to fly, then we would of developed wings. Aircraft are highly complex mechanical and electrical systems. Whatever we do, they will always want to fall back to earth and I feel it is unlikely that we will ever be able to build an un-crashable aircraft (mmm the Titanic springs to mind). Anyway - Birds crash, and they are designed to fly, and we cannot compete with nature.
Nick, UK

Aviation in general is a "relatively" safe industry, but there always is room for improvement and sometimes substantial room for improvement and the reasons behind the delay of improvements, is usually one regarding profitability of the airline. Here in the USA, the Federal Aviation Administration is not managed by the Department of Transportation, it's managed by the Department of Commerce. That fact alone, speaks volumes.
Steve Kenney, USA



Disasters can happen in anywhere and at any time.
Eyob, Ethiopia/USA
Disasters can happen in anywhere and at any time. This can not be more proven when the Alaska Airlines crushed near Los Anglos a day after the crush of a Kenyan Airlines. Here the competency of the country is less relevant. It can happen to any Airlines because it is unavoidable and inevitable. The bottom line is this: skies are still the safest mode of transportation; however, we can not prevent accidents from happening. It was happening since the beginning and will continue to happen in the future.
Eyob, Ethiopia/USA

Both metal and mental fatigue are factors that need to be scientifically eliminated before we can conformably conclude that air travel is comparatively still the safest mode of travel. The current incredibly efficient information traffic via the internet is making the rather uncommon episodes appear seemingly common....
George G Mbati, Tanzania

Obviously any air crash is newsworthy and a tragedy. However, flying is unquestionably an extremely safe mode of transport and as long as the correct regulatory control continues, will remain so. I fly regularly and find the professionalism of the major airlines reassuring.....that all said, there's nothing wrong with looking for improvements.
Mike G, England



It's all to easy too forget that these are machines. They aren't magical things, they do break, everything can break.
Matt, Netherlands (ex. UK)
I for one have become more afraid after some of my experiences of air travel. I have seen some dodgy things, such as an engineer crawling into the engine armed only with a hefty hammer, when the engine wouldn't start.
It's all to easy to forget that these are machines. They aren't magical things, they do break, everything can break. There will never be a time when you can guarantee safety. However, there are steps one can take to make air travel (in the UK for instance) safer. Regionalising the airports further would help, and it would reduce the absolute chaos over London. There's nothing much more disturbing than holding in a stack over the city, and seeing another 7 planes flying round outside your window.
Matt, Netherlands (ex. UK)

Train or plane? I'd take the plane any day. My sympathies go to the relatives of the fatally injured, both in the Kenya Airways and Alaska Airlines crashes.
Dave D, England

Flying feels unnatural. You might climb out the wreckage of a car - but never a plane.
Scott Cunningham, Scotland

When you live in a country like Australia, you have little choice but to fly. I also regularly drive 100 km just to go to work from where I live. I have always felt safer flying in a plane. At least the pilot is qualified and regularly tested, more than you can say for your average car driver that you have to share the roads with!
Michael, Australia



We could design aircraft that would never crash and have zero casualties in the air, but this would make flying so expensive only the mega rich would be able to afford it.
Vishal Vashisht, UK
Doing Aero Eng for 3 years showed me that flying is the safest form of transport. The amount of work put in by the industry in terms of safety is phenomenal. If car drivers had to be trained as well as pilots are before being allowed on the roads, there would be no accidents, or congestion for that matter as most drivers wouldn't be allowed within 100 miles of a cockpit.
Air travel has allowed the world to become smaller and has allowed everyday goods to become cheaper as well as allowing everyday people the ability to go on holiday around the world. We could design aircraft that would never crash and have zero casualties in the air, but this would make flying so expensive only the mega rich would be able to afford it.
Vishal Vashisht, UK

Air travel is safe but I question the safety of these A300 Airbuses...Too many have crashed in a short period of time.... should they not be looked at more carefully.
Asabea Acquaah-Harrison, UK

Ah what rubbish. Flying has always been the best mode of transport (the private car comes in a close second). I will be flying to LA in 4 weeks time and I will be flying to Europe in July. The fact that two planes have crashed in as many days doesn't bother me. The truth is I feel a lot safer at 30,000 ft than I do in a car with all those incompetent drivers (mainly women) on the roads today!
Dr. S, UK

I loathe flying. If I had meant to be up in the air I would have been born with wings!
Kim Beaumont, UK

Flying was fine when there was very little in the way of planes in the air. Now, the skies are getting too crowded - it's becoming the equivalent of a rush-hour motorway...
Daniel Dainty, United Kingdom



I personally feel far safer travelling in the strictly controlled highways at 35000ft than driving on the M25.
Dane, UK
I don't believe pointing the finger at the Airbus Industry aircraft is the best place to presume blame. The Boeing 747 has killed almost half the total airbus fatalities mentioned in your article in ONE single accident in 1977, but it was not due to the quality of the aircraft. Aircraft manufacturers put more resource into the safety of their products than nearly any other industry. What they cannot control is each airline's maintenance and safety practices and the calibre of the pilots they employ. It is interesting that this particular aircraft is favoured among developing and third world countries where airline safety is not as strictly monitored. At the end of the day, -aviation disasters make spectacular and shocking news for the media industry which clouds people's perspective about air travel. I personally feel far safer travelling in the strictly controlled highways at 35000ft than driving on the M25.
Dane, UK

I think I can still trust the major airlines, just not the smaller ones.
Marc Fuller, UK

I think it is very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security in an airliner. At the end of the day you are sitting in a tiny metal tube being buffeted by the elements at minus 70 and 35,000 feet above the ground. Frankly I think that airlines and aircraft engineers do a remarkable job to maintain such a high safety record under such circumstances.
Ian Moseley, Germany (from UK)

The crews need always new training, constant medical examinations and the maintenance of the aircraft must be more efficient.
G. Athanassoulis (Mr.), Greece



A member of my family died in a commercial airliner crash.
Bruce, New Zealand
A member of my family died in a commercial airliner crash. I know he would have roared with laughter when quoted the statistic that you are more likely to be murdered by your spouse than die in an air crash. Air crashes are tragic for all concerned, but thanks to the great strides made by the aircraft industry, I know I am safer on a plane than in my own living room. No other industry has safety so ingrained into its corporate soul.
I think that flying is safe enough and the media have a morbid interest in tragic events that kill people in unusual ways. The media time devoted to air crashes is disproportionate to the number of deaths involved. My thoughts are with those grieving around the world.
Bruce, New Zealand

The death of one person is one too many. But for those of us who ply the American city streets and see the horrors of road accidents, 1400 deaths in twelve years from plane accidents sound like comparing night and day.
I still believe air travel is still not only the fastest but the safest. I only hope that the crash of the Kenyan airline will not bring an indictment of African airlines as being unsafe. Alaskan airlines just crashed this afternoon and that is in the USA.
Cillaty Daboh, USA

In a closely coupled system with like aircrafts, accidents are bound to happen. That is an unfortunate side effect of any technology
Ramesh, India/US

As someone who has been flying at least once a week for the past seven years or so, I would rather fly from Singapore to London, than drive from London to Bristol. I have been involved in certain "incidents" while flying, but feel a lot safer than I do on the roads!
John Atkins, Singapore



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

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