You're risking your life any time you travel — but if you're afraid of dying in transit, statistics show that you're probably safest in an airplane.
Statistics from the United States Department of Transportation suggest that the odds for the general population of dying in:
- A car crash: 1 in 7,700.
- A motorcycle accident: 1 in 91,500.
- A railroad accident, 1 in 306,000.
- A bicycle accident: 1 in 410,000.
- An airplane accident: 1 in 2,067,000.
Of course, the more you drive, ride or fly, the higher your odds — but the risk remains the lowest if you're in an airplane.
Air Canada's last fatal accident was near Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1983, when 23 people died in a cabin fire that broke out during the flight.
There have been countless in-flight incidents that could have ended disastrously, but were resolved without loss of life. Here's a look at a few of them.
March 11: Air Canada Flight 178, an Embraer 190 jet from Edmonton, lands at Toronto's Pearson International Airport despite being told to pull up and remain in the air due to the presence of a vehicle on the runway.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada launched a full investigation because of the crew’s failure to obey orders when arriving. A Sunwing Airlines cargo van with keys in the ignition had rolled onto the runway. The flight crew members said they did not obey the two orders because they thought the command was for another plane.
Jan. 16: A 787 Dreamliner was forced to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan after a cockpit message showed battery problems and a burning smell was detected in the cockpit and cabin.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency safety order requiring airlines to cease operating the Boeing 787 as the planes’ lithium batteries were checked.
Oct. 2, 2012: A US Airways Airbus A330-200 carrying more than 230 passengers makes a late-night emergency landing in Moncton after a fire breaks out in an oven at the rear of the plane. Flight attendants put out the fire and no one was hurt. However, the Philadelphia to Tel Aviv flight lands in New Brunswick as a precaution.
May 29, 2011: Passengers aboard Provincial Airlines Flight 1992 from St. John’s to Wabush in Labrador have a close call when their aircraft came near another plane. They were shaken by what they had thought was turbulence. The airline confirmed that what they actually experienced was an avoidance manoeuvre when the crew was warned of another plane in their airspace.
According to a report, the Transport Canada database shows that an Air Canada Jazz flight had been en route from Halifax to Gander, and was cleared to descend to 17,000 feet. However, it could not level off and had to drop further, coming close to the Provincial Airlines flight. No one was injured during the incident.
Nov. 28, 2011: A Lufthansa Airbus A340 was forced to land in Calgary during a violent windstorm. The pilot had to use a special technique to shift the plane toward the crosswind in order to land safely.
Nov. 1, 2011: A Boeing 767 landed on its belly in Warsaw, Poland, after its landing gear failed to open. The failure caused sparks and small fires, but none of the 231 passengers were injured. The Polish LOT airlines flight from Newark, N.J., to Warsaw encountered a problem with the chassis before touching the ground. The pilots circled the airport for almost an hour before trying to land the plane without wheels. Firefighters were on scene to extinguish any flames once the plane was still.
Nov. 4, 2010: A Qantas Airlines Airbus A380 on a flight from Singapore to Sydney makes an emergency landing in Singapore after one of the jet's four engines shuts down. The jet was carrying 440 passengers and 26 crew. The engine closest to the fuselage on the left wing had visible burn marks and was missing a section of plate that would have been painted with the red kangaroo logo of the airline. The upper part of the left wing also appeared to have suffered some damage. Qantas grounded its fleet of A380s, while it investigates the incident, which is the most serious involving the world's largest jetliner.
May 26, 2010: An Air India Express plane on a flight from Dubai to Pune plunges more than 1,800 metres when it hits an air pocket. The Boeing 737-800 aircraft was carrying 112 passengers and six crew members. The pilots regained control of the aircraft and it landed safely. No serious injuries were reported.
Jan. 15, 2009: A U.S. Airways Airbus A320 loses power to both engines shortly after taking off from New York's La Guardia airport when it strikes a flock of geese. Capt. Chesley Sullenberger is able to guide the crippled aircraft to a safe landing on the Hudson River, where rescue boats and ferries plucked the 155 passengers and crew from lifeboats and the plane's wings before it sank in the frigid waters. There were no serious injuries.
July 25, 2008: A Qantas Boeing 747-400 on a flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne makes an emergency landing in Manila, after it began to rapidly lose altitude as wind swirled about the cabin. Passengers reported hearing an explosion about an hour after takeoff. The plane landed with a gaping hole in its fuselage. An investigation found that an oxygen bottle from the emergency oxygen supply system exploded. There were no injuries.
Jan 10, 2008: Air Canada Flight 190 from Victoria to Toronto makes an emergency landing in Calgary after it rolled from side to side and then plunged thousands of metres. Nine people were sent to hospital with injuries. Passengers said the plane dropped so violently that some people hit the plane's ceiling. There were 88 people onboard. Two years later, a Transportation Safety Board report found that the pilot overreacted on the rudder when he encountered unexpected turbulence. The plane ran into what is known as "wake turbulence" as it followed in the path of a Boeing 747 over the state of Washington.
Aug. 2, 2005: An Air France Airbus A340-300 carrying 309 people on a flight to Toronto from Paris, comes to a violent halt in a ravine, 200 metres past the end of a runway, its tail on fire. There were violent thunderstorms in the area at the time of the landing. Airport officials had instituted a Red Alert earlier in the afternoon preventing most flights from taking off. Incoming flights were permitted to land, if conditions allowed.
Everyone got out safely, but 10 passengers and two crew members were seriously injured during the evacuation of the plane. Two years later a Transportation Safety Board report recommends that 300-metre safety areas be added to the end of all Canadian runways, a measure that is already an international standard, as well as clearer rules on landing in storms.
March 12, 2003: A Singapore Airlines 747-400 taking off from Auckland, N.Z., on a flight to Singapore scrapes its tail section along the runway for 490 metres before becoming airborne. The tail section was extensively damaged. The plane landed safely at Auckland's airport after circling the area for 20 minutes. None of the 369 passengers or 20 crew members was injured.
Aug. 24, 2001: An Air Transat A330-200 glides to an emergency landing in the Azores after a fuel leak shut down both engines. The plane, which was on a flight from Toronto to Lisbon, glided for about 20 minutes after running out of fuel. The plane made a hard landing, damaging the landing gear, but came to a stop on the runway. None of the 291 passengers or 13 crew members were killed, although several suffered serious injuries, including fractures and shock. A Portuguese investigation cited faulty maintenance and noted the pilots failed to detect the fuel leak.
July 23, 1983: An Air Canada Boeing 767 on a flight from Montreal to Edmonton runs out of fuel halfway through the trip. The pilot glides to a landing at a former air force base near Gimli, Man. None of the 61 passengers on board was injured. An investigation determined that human error was to blame. The aircraft ran out of fuel after the crew miscalculated the weight of fuel on board. There was confusion over conversion of calculations from imperial to metric measures. The plane was repaired and returned to service and was officially known as the Gimli Glider until it was taken out of service in 2008.