Go via Car? Or light plane?

Another light plane crashed in our fair state, killing an entire young family. This seems to happen alot here.

A car veers into oncoming traffic on a local highway, killing seven, possibly disabling one, and leaving a six month old orphaned.

So, travel can be fatal.

Would you feel safer in an automobile? Or a light plane?

Which one is actually safer?

I’d feel safer in a light aircraft. I read a statistic (sorry, no cite) that said that you’re eight times more likely to crash in a car, but you’re eight times more likely to die if you crash in an aircraft.

On the other hand, I am supremely confident in my own abilities. I am not so confident in the abilities of others. Therefore, I feel safer in a “big sky” at the controls of an aircraft than I do on a crowded freeway. Also, other drivers do irritating things.

Besides, flying is faster than driving, and a helluvalot more fun.

Given the opportunity, I’ll take a Cessna.

I’ve heard/read similar statements many times, and I tend to agree. Can someone give a cite to a site?

I’ve ridden in small planes before and I loved it. Too bad you can’t tow a Dodge Colt or Renault LeCar behind one for when you get there.

Some pilots keep an “airport car” at a destination they frequent. Typically it’s a cheap beater.

You might go over to aopa.org and see if they have the latest Nall Report posted. (Or do a google.) I don’t know if the Nall Report lists the “eight times” statistic, but it will give a rundown on accidents and fatalities per accident. (IIRC from last year, about 19% of aircraft accidents involve fatalities.)

FWIW, I’m not a great believer in “accidents”. There’s usually a series of easily avoidable events that lead to a crash.

I don’t think that there is an accurate way to statistically compare the safety of a car vs. light plane. How would you do it? Hours flown vs. hours driven? Miles travelled?

Along the lines of what Johnny L.A. said, you (the pilot) are the main factor in a light airplanes safety. You want to be safe? Stay proficient, learn from others mistakes, and keep your plane well maintained.

At least in a plane you usually don’t have to worry about the other guy taking you out.

Usually. :smiley:

This site says GA is ten times more fatal than driving a car on a per vehicle-mile basis.

The comparison between GA and driving is very murky - people who have never flown a plane have no frame of reference for “inadvertant stall/spin”, “continued VFR into IMC” - the biggies of GA fatalities (former: the wing stops producing lift, you fall down, go boom, esp. if you only have a couple of hundred of feet in which to recover (as in takeoff and landing). latter: can’t see the horizon, don’t realize you are banking slightly, and descending - bye bye.).

Phillip Greenspan is a photo genius and probably knows more about flying than can be summarized in a few words.

Case in point: 4 men died when they tried to outrun a storm. What’s interesting:
3 of them were ATP’s (you call some of these folks “captain”), the other was a A&P (airplane mechanic)
They were in a 172 - with 3 toolboxes - the plane was hideously overloaded.
They had just taken off after being offered free food and lodging by the airport manager (Livermore, CA)

That level of arrogance (Hell, I’ve gotten away with worse…) is hard to translate into driving terms - it’s real hard to screw up that much in a car (I’ve driven in freezing rain, around tornadoes, and a hundred other idiotic ways - not only did I get away with it, even if I’d crashed I’d still be alive - plane crashes don’t work that way).

Lip. Spun. Philip GreenSPUN.


True, and I, as a pilot, can take steps to eliminate the greatest, and most likely to result in a fatal accident risks, while as a driver I have little control over many of the risks. But I think the comparison is apt for a passenger who doesn’t know about descending below the MDA on a nonpresicion instrument approach, or taking off from a short field on a high density altitude day while 100 lbs over gross.

I had to include that word.

Never know when someone is gonna pull out in front of you on short final.

Or worse.

Here is a good article on general aviation accident statistics:

My head starts to hurt around page 7 or so.

Less see,

10,000 + hours logged – prolly more but…
X 130 MPH avg = 1,300,000 miles – prolly more but…
X 2 avg passengers = 2, 600,00- passenger miles – prolly more but…
x 3 avg seat per flight = 3, 900,000 seat miles – prolly more but… don’t want to exaggerate…

Never a an accident or injury from flight. Yet. :wink:

Think I’ll go rent a bird…

For those playing at home: 10,000 hours flying ~ 500,000 miles driving (planes don’t do “runs to the mall”).

And when it does, the media plays it up. Meanwhile, the 14 car crashes that ALSO happened are given 10 seconds on the evening news, if mentioned at all.

Let me tell you what was going through my head yesterday as I drove to Michigan:

Departing the homestead under a bright, sunny sky, I’m thinking… gee, I wish I had reserved a rental plane. Two hours and I’m there, sure beats 6 hours of driving or {{{{shudder}}}} the commercial airlines.

Crossing the border into Michigan, I’m thinking… where did this wet, sloppy half-frozen crap falling out the sky come from? I am SO GLAD I did not fly because this mess is nothing for a lil’ airplane pilot like me to mess with. Ugh. Hope I don’t hear about any idiots going down in this on the evening news.

Between Ann Arbor and Detroit, bumper-to-bumper at 70 mph (which, just for the record, is faster than my airplane is going when it touches down), with Darwin Award Wannabees weaving in and out of traffic, and narrowly missing becoming the filling in an SUV sandwhich several times, Death By Icing in the air is starting to look attractive.

In other words, in what context are we discussing travel?

If it’s good weather with a good pilot… I actually do feel safer in the air. Certainly safer than on the average freeway!

If there’s a thunderstorm or sleet or fog or other weather I have neither the equipment nor training to fly in… driving is unquestionably safer.

NoClueBoy, the vast majority of the time you hear about a small plane crash there is also a weather factor.

Here’s some well-known examples:

Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” climb into a small airplane and the pilot takes off into a snowstorm. Crash!

The Joe Meier incident - an 8 year old, at the instigation of her father, Mr. Dubroff, is trying a stupid stunt - trying to fly from the Pacific to the Atlantic in three days in a Cessna Cardinal. The take off into strong winds and freezing rain in an overloaded airplane. Crash!

JFK, Jr. - untrained for flying on instruments alone, wanders into low-visibility weather off Martha’s Vineyard. Plunk! (sound of airplane going into water, ya know?)

Governor Carnahan of Missouri - flying with an experienced and thoroughly trained pilot in bad weather, when they experience instrument failure. I don’t care how well trained you are, you can’t fly through clouds without instruments, and while they didn’t lose them all, they lost most of them.

Senator Wellstone of Minnesota - King Air went down in low visibility in an area reporting icing conditions. Not sure exactly why yet (investigation still on-going)

Notice a common thread here? If the weather’s bad - drive.

Notice another common thread here? It’s called “get-there-itis”. The musicians have to make their next gig. The little girl has to get across the continent. JFK,Jr. has to make his counsins wedding. Governor Carnahan had some politcal thing to go to. Wellstone was (ironically enough) going to a funeral. To be fair, this is an impulse that leads people to doing 90 on the freeway and cut others off, it’s just that the consequences in a car are less likely to be fatal (still could be, though. Or maybe you’ll just be maimed).

If you want to safely enjoy small aircraft, stay on the ground when it’s crappy weather, don’t fly through clouds or fog unless the pilot has the proper training and equipment, and whatever you do, do NOT get into a small plane with a pilot muttering “Gotta get there, gotta get there, I’m running late, gotta get there…”

If you want to safely enjoy driving a car, slow down when roads are slick, try to avoid rush hour, let the idiots pass you by rather than challenge them, and do NOT get into a car with someone who reeks of alcohol.

Sorry that wasn’t a neat and tidy answer, but the truth is, sometimes cars are safer, sometimes small planes are safer. It all depends.

By the way - you didn’t mention your state. Was this the 6-seater that went down in Iowa? I didn’t hear much about it… but how was the weather that day…? Snow? Freezing rain?

No, Broomstick, Oklahoma. Clear weather. Cause unknown so far. Mom, Dad, four daughters. Had just happened while I was thinking of that car crash on I-40 last week that effectively ended two families.

There is a small areodrome near me that has planes landing on Sara Rd about once every four months or so. Usually some mechanical problem right after take off.

More and more people are just thinking of getting there, falsely confident that they’re safe enough. Same kind of mentality that lets 4X4 drivers think they’re safe on icy roads. Morons. If 2 wheels are slipping on my Honda, then 4 wheels are slipping on your Bronco. If something is not perfect on your plane while grounded, why chance total failure in the air?

How many Explorers do you suppose still have the original tires?
How many folks die because they couldn’t be bothered to put on a life preserver while boating?

People do stupid things - even with vehicles.

And if there are routiine power failures resulting in off-field landings, maybe these folk would like to hear about it:

Oklahoma City
Flight Standards District Office
1300 Meridian, Suite 601
Oklahoma City, OK 73108
(405) 951-4200
Fax (405) 951-4282

(FAA office in charge of enforcing the rules - a biggie is “do not endanger those on the ground” - if you can get a date/time/location/tail number, they’ll love you)

I have to second the idea of reporting a problem. If people are routinely landing on roads, the Flight Standards office really does want to hear about it. I’m not real eager to report folks to the Feds, but if they’re being irresponsible you have to say something.

I should also point out that having one thing go wrong is not necessarily an accident in the making. I’ve had instrument failures, alternator failures, leaking fuel tanks, and a variety of other things go wrong while in flight yet I have always landed safely. A lot of this has to do with proper training AND not “pushing the envelope” too far. Little things like always checking my fuel consumption at every stop, and when flying the Cessna 150 with a passenger, not flying with full fuel tanks (that would put the airplane over its maximum legal weight). If someone shows up to the airport for a ride and something is not right we don’t go - no matter how much they yell and scream (and believe me, I’ve been yelled and screamed at).

The biggest single factor in ANY vehicle accident - auto, boat, car, bicycle, whatever - is the HUMAN factor. Who’s at the controls? What sort of person are they? It’s not the machine that’s unsafe, it’s the human who makes bad decisions that is unsafe.

Regrettably, yes, sometimes the machines do fail us… and tragedies do happen. But that is a very very small percentage of the accidents that happen. I don’t know if anyone has ever studied the issue, but I think airplanes are less likely to breakdown than cars, assuming the rules are followed about regulations and repairs (and here we’re back to the human decisions about whether to follow the rules or not…)

Pls don’t get me started on maintenance rules - in the short time I owned that little yankee, I must’ve busted 100’s of regs on maintenance - I even replaced a landing light!!!

That little yankee was in better shape than a couple of rentals I’ve been in - when it costs $125 to replace a switch, switches don’t get replaced unless they are really critical.

But - taking off without enough power to even return to the field is irresponsible in the extreme.

and I’d love to have a dollar for every plane that’s taken off while overweight…

Broom and Heathen, I have a friend at the FAA, an instructer actually. I’ve talked with him about this before. Those landings are always reported on in the local news, and I don’t think a single incident has gone by without an official interview taking place on the site. What I find odd is just how often it happens. At that particular field. But, the FAA is aware of it.

There are some private airfields around here, too, even one housing developement that has it’s own landing field and every house has a hanger. Kind of cool.

But I agree, sloppy technique, poor planning, and stupidity are dangerous in any type of travel