Recency Bias: Air Travel Edition

Jonathan Crystal
Jonathan Crystal
CFO, Crystal & Company

Last month’s tragic crash of a sightseeing helicopter in New York City’s East River—in which all five passengers’ lives were lost—inevitably leaves people worried about flight safety. Human decision-making takes the path of least resistance, and more often than not the most available information—e.g., the most recent and newsworthy—is mistaken for the most important.

Which is why I’m taking the time to note how rare fatal air crashes are, particularly involving commercial aircrafts and, specifically, jets.

According to a recent Los Angeles Times story, the U.S. hasn’t seen a commercial jet accident that resulted in passenger fatalities since the 2013 Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco. And the last time a U.S. airline was involved in a fatal crash was 2009 when a Colgan Air flight crashed on its way to Boston.

Also worth remembering: the worst disaster in aviation history happened on the ground, on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, when two planes collided on a foggy runway in 1977.

Bottom Line: While no activity is without risk—and crashes involving helicopters are more common than those involving planes—air travel in general represents a remarkable safety success story.

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