Why is the process of taking off and landing a plane so dangerous?

If given the choice, we would probably choose to die while eating a delicious meal rather than die in a plane crash. With a rate of 1 in 2.5 million fatal accidents and about half of them occur in the shortest periods of flight. Want to know when to worry the most about your next flight? Remember to fasten your seat belt.

Takeoff and landing are known to be the two most dangerous phases in flight. Take a look at the chart below. Boeing tracks and records all commercial airliner crashes annually and arranges them by date of crash. Boeing divides the average 90-minute flight into eight phases. But we only need to focus on the following 5 stages.

Why is the process of taking off and landing a plane so dangerous?
Photo: Boeing

The first is a two-stage take-off and climb. These two stages account for only 2% of the time, but have an accident rate of 14%. This seems like a very high number, but it’s good to look at the altitude maintenance phase. This phase accounts for more than half of the flight time, but the accident rate is only 11%. And the rest is descending and landing. These two phases account for only 4% of the flight time, twice the time of take-off and climb. But the accident rate is extremely high, up to 49% in a very short period of time. Therefore, the aircraft descent and landing are the two most dangerous stages in a flight. So what is the reason behind?

“Normally, when an airplane takes off and lands, it’s at a low altitude and at a slow speed. When something goes wrong, you don’t have enough time to react ,” said Anthony Brickhouse, an associate professor. at the Embry-Riddle Aviation Academy, said.

When the plane is at 10,000m, the pilot has a huge amount of time and space to deal with the problem. Even when the engine is completely off, the plane cannot immediately fall to the ground. Airplanes can glide with air currents. During this phase, the aircraft will descend about 1,600m while traveling 16,000m, so the pilot will have about 8 minutes to be able to find a safe landing position. But if a problem occurs near the ground, the time and space for troubleshooting is very limited.

For commercial aircraft, take-off takes only about 30 to 35 seconds. If the engine fails or the landing gear gets stuck, the pilot hardly has time to decide whether to continue take-off or try to find a way to bring the giant 80-ton bird back to the ground. Most decisions are made to keep taking off.

“Because if you’re traveling on the runway at more than 160km/h it happens very, very quickly. Making the decision to stop taking off is very difficult because you have to do it before reaching the airspeed threshold. allowed speed, otherwise, physically speaking, you won’t be able to stop,” Brickhouse said.

If the plane is not taking off or landing at this time, it will go all the way to the runway. And depending on the airport, the end of the runway can be a field or a literal abyss, like Telluride Regional Airport in Colorado. The two ends of the runways of this airport are abysses with a depth of about 1,000m.

For airports with dangerous runways like Telluride , EMAS (Engineered Materials Arrestor System) will be installed. The EMAS system is a piece of material at the end of the runway designed to sink under the weight of the aircraft, which will hold the plane’s wheels and force it to stop before plunging into the abyss. In the event of a crash landing, the system works similarly.

Why is the process of taking off and landing a plane so dangerous?

The answer is very simple . It’s easier to get an airplane into the sky than it is to stop it . “When an aircraft is slowing down and is in the process of landing, any gust of wind or something like that can affect the aircraft more strongly than during take-off.” Brickhouse explained.

During a normal landing, the pilot would contact air traffic control, line up for the appropriate runway, and notify the crew. The take-off process is similar. But when landing, everything happens while the plane is heading for the runway instead of leaving the runway.

“Sometimes, everything is fine during landing, but at the last second something goes wrong and it leads to an accident. In other situations, even though an emergency has been announced on the plane. When flying with the risks faced when landing, when landing, an unlucky situation will also lead to an accident,” Brickhouse said.

Although the statistics may seem scary, the plane is still the safest means of transportation. And even if something goes wrong on the oncoming flight, you still have about a 95.7% chance of survival.