The disappearance of flight MH370, which lost contact with air-traffic control between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, is a reminder of the dangers of air travel.
Yet thankfully, such disasters are exceedingly rare. Over the past four decades fatalities on aeroplanes—be it from accidents or terrorism—have declined even as the number of travellers has increased almost ten-fold. Aviation is also much safer than other forms of transport.
On a per passenger-mile basis, an individual is about 180 times more likely to die in a car than on a plane, according to America’s National Safety Council (though these types of travel are not in direct competition).
As for flight MH370, the mysteriousness is heightened because the aircraft vanished while cruising. It is a phase of flight that accounts for only 9% of fatalities but almost 60% of time spent in the air, according to the Aviation Safety Network, an independent database in the Netherlands.