Each year Boeing publishes stats on jet airline safety. This year's stats are at http://www.boeing.com/news/techissues/pdf/statsum.pdf
These numbers show the fatal accident rates of airliners currently in use, per 1,000,000 departures. The stats cover the entire jet era, 1959 through 2012. Planes get safer and safer as they are flown and more is learned about them. This means flying is even safer than the stats imply.
Boeing 787: zero
Boeing 747-800: zero
Airbus A380: zero
Boeing 777: zero
Airbus A340: zero
Boeing 767: 0.12
737 600 and later: 0.13
Airbus A319, 320, 321: 0.16
Boeing 757: 0.22
Boeing 737 500 and earlier: 0.25
Douglas MD-80/90: 0.32
Airbus A330: 0.35
Boeing 747-400: 0.42
Boeing 747-300 and earlier: 1.46
Douglas MD-11: 2.1
1. It is interesting—and heartening—to see that many airlines have no fatalities, including the 777, which went into service almost twenty years ago.
2. Of the planes that have been involved in one or more fatal accidents, several have a rate of around 0.15. That translates into one fatal accident in about 7,000,000 flights. Compare the 0.15 rate with the rate of the original jet airliners, the Boeing 707 and the DC-8, 4.21 and 4.00 respectively.
Divide 4.21 by 0.15 and you get about 28. That means the current airliners that have been involved in accidents are still 28 times safer than the 707 and about 26 times safer than the DC-8.
3. How does flying compare with driving? Emotionally, driving is better. By being in control of the car, whenever you make a decision on how to deal with a threat, you signal the amygdala to stop releasing stress hormones. When stress hormones are controlled, anxiety is controlled.
But in an airplane, threats come to mind. Though not real, these imagined threats trigger the release of stress hormones. Since you are not in control, it is difficult—if not impossible—to keep these thoughts from releasing stress hormones.
Feelings are one thing; reality is another. What are the facts about safety? Research has shown that when you drive on a rural Interstate highway (the safest driving there is) a mere 10.8 miles on the road is equal to covering the U.S. from coast-to-coast in a airliner.
4. It is a "no-brainer" that flying is physically safer. It is also a "no-brainer" that driving feels safer.
5. What can you do to take care of yourself physically and emotionally? At SOAR, we have developed a great free iPhone/iPad app to deal with flight anxiety (the Android version will be available in a week or so). Using your iPhone or iPad go to http://www.fearofflying.com/app/