The Odds of a Boring Flight

Posted on: January 28th, 2012 by
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If you have a fear of flying you have heard people tell you how safe air travel is… safer than driving a car, safer than staying at home patting the cat, safer than blah blah blah…

You’ll also hear, from time to time, the odds of something bad happening to you when you fly.  The statistics vary depending where in the world you are flying, and from year to year. It could be 1-in-3 million in one country; the latest results for the US were 1-in-11 million (quite amazingly safe, really).

In Dragons of Thin Air Felix the Fear Dragon goes to great efforts to convey a visual understanding of what these numbers mean, making the point that humans are not good at comprehending very big numbers.  To pick an arbitrary number in the range we are talking about, Felix discussed a 1-in-5 million chance. Do you know what a 1-in-5 million chance feels like?

If you are willing and brave enough I invite you to play with these numbers, and have a play with my very boring flight simulator. It is simply a random number generator, and we are going to see if your number comes up.


1) Before you start, choose one number between 1 and 5,000,000 and write it down (that prevents you from cheating later!)

2) Click the TAKE A FLIGHT button.  A random number will be displayed… If YOUR number (the one you wrote down, and no other) is displayed then you lose.  You can consider yourself correct in being afraid of flying, and wise for having stayed on the ground.

ANY OTHER NUMBER REPRESENTS A SAFE, BORING, UNEVENTFUL FLIGHT from which you would have disembarked unscathed and happy, enjoying the benefits of modern air travel.


Remember, this is not a fortune telling device, or a guarantee. It’s just a game aimed at giving a feel for the odds of airline safety.

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