Are you in danger from crazy pilots?

According to the Aviation Safety Network, worldwide there have been at least nine pilot suicides since 1976 and more than 1,000 hijackings by pilots since 1931. — CBS News

It’s now clear this week’s air disaster that took 150 lives was caused by a deranged copilot who locked the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed the plane by reprogramming the autopilot’s altitude setting from 38,000 feet to 100 feet. In 1999, a similar action by a suicidal copilot downed a commercial airliner and took 217 lives. And last year’s unresolved disappearance of Malaysian Air Flight MH-370 conceivably may have been caused by a homicidal maniac at the controls.

Despite their high profile, such incidents are incredibly rare. The number of daily commercial flights averaged 102,465 worldwide, and 28,537 in the United States, in 2014. That’s more than 10 million flights per year in the U.S. alone. If suicide crashes occur, on average, once every 5 1/2 years then your odds of being mass-murdered by a pilot are less than 1 in 200 million. Last year, according to Associated Press, airlines carried 3.7 billion passengers, of whom 641 were killed in crashes, which makes your odds of dying on an airplane only 1 in 5.77 million from all causes.

budget-airline-pilotEven so, many people won’t take much comfort from the statistics. I’ll bet this incident puts a dent in air travel and airline stocks. Just know that ever since the September 11 hijackings the U.S. has required there always be a minimum of two people on the flight deck at all times while the plane is in the air. If a pilot leaves the cockpit for any reason (and we all know what that is, wink wink), another crew member (even if just a flight attendant) must take his place. Europe doesn’t have such a rule. I bet they will now.

Photo: A madman at the controls? The odds are against it. This guy probably would be screened out by the hiring process.


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