Ron Rapp, the pilot blogger behind the House of Rapp blog, has written a great (and lengthy) essay about answering the “is flying safe” question and more importantly, how to better phrase the question in the first place. Ron began his post by writing that over the years, he has received a wide variety of aviation-related questions from non-pilots and he has realized that a fair percentage of them are really trying to ask the same thing: Is flying safe? Specifically, Ron has heard the question phrased in the following ways:
- How long have you been flying?
- Do you fly much?
- Have you ever had the engine quit?
- Have you ever had an emergency?
- Know anyone who’s been in a crash?
- How much training did you have to undergo?
- How many hours do you have?
Ron later pointed out that as a general aviation pilot, you will have a great deal of control over how much risk you are exposed to while flying. On the other hand and if you are a general aviation passenger, you will have far less control over the amount of risk you are exposed to. Hence, deciding whether or not to fly in the first place will be the most critical decision to make.
For that reason, it will be important to ask the RIGHT question or questions before taking up an offer to fly with a friend or family member. Therefore, Ron wrote that he recommends non-pilots to consider some of the same items that pilots themselves are taught to look at when assessing risk. In other words, rephrase the “is flying safe” question or if you are a pilot, rephrase your answer to address the following risk questions or considerations:
- Do you trust the judgment of the pilot?
- How much experience does the pilot have?
- How recent is that experience?
- How’s the weather?
- Is the pilot experienced with the aircraft?
- Is the pilot familiar with the route?
- Is there any pressure to make the flight?
- Did the aircraft just come out of the maintenance shop?
Ron ended his post by commenting that the only purely “safe” alternative is to never leave the ground but that is not an option for him and no doubt many readers of this blog.