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Air travel is safer than you think

5 facts to calm your inner turbulence.

By Rich_Maloof Mar 26, 2013 4:21PM

News that budget cuts will force airports to close 149 air traffic towers, thanks to sequestration, is not doing much to quell the nerves of jittery travelers. However, air travel may be safer than you think.

Though our natural instincts have not come all the way around to accepting that we can travel safely in a metal tube hurled 30,000 feet above Earth’s surface at 600 miles per hour, air travel is statistically safer than driving a car or boating — even safer than walking or riding a bike, according to national safety data.

Photo: Flying is safe / Westend61/Getty ImagesNonetheless, the soft ding of a “Fasten Seatbelt” alert can stir your deepest fears about airplane safety as you sit there in coach next to the largest ticketed passenger aboard. But before you reach for that floatation device under your seat, check out the aviation safety quiz posted this week by Christian Science Monitor.

Here are 5 surprising facts, courtesy of CSM, to calm your turbulent mind (and give you a jump on the quiz).

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1. The survival rate in airplane accidents is 95.7 percent. Of the 53,487 people involved in airplane accidents between 1983 and 2000, 51,207 of them survived. The odds of being in any kind of airplane crash have been calculated at one in 90 million.

2. No one is strong enough to open an emergency door mid-flight. Interior cabin pressure increases with altitude, keeping those inward-opening doors shut tight while a plane is in flight. You don’t have to worry about a hatch being opened an anxiety crazed passenger…even if it’s you.

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3. Large commercial airlines have the lowest accident rates. Commercial airlines with more than 10 seats have a far lower accident rate than smaller airlines and general aviation aircraft, like the two-seaters flown recreationally.

4. The age limit for commercial pilots operating two-pilot aircraft is 65. Regulations enacted in 2006 also require the second pilot to be younger than 60. While silver hair under a captain’s hat projects a reassuring impression of experience, he is not likely to nod off behind the controls like an elderly uncle after Thanksgiving dinner.

5. Airports have been successful at keeping birds away from runways. Canada geese may have downed the flight that Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger heroically landed on the Hudson River, but airports have prevented an untold number of bird-related accidents by using sonic canons, training falcons to fly over runways and dogs to hunt nearby and by covering nearby ponds with nets.

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Photo: Flying is safe / Westend61/Getty Images

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