Flying Has Become Far Safer

The Boeing 737 Max’s current failure rate of ~1% of all airframes in the mere three years it has been flying commercially is, obviously, astoundingly bad. But it’s worth noting that this comes on the back of astounding improvements in air safety over the past century.

According to Steven Pinker’s data in Enlightenment Now, it is 100x safer (!) to fly today than it was in the 1970s.

This has happened even as flights have become far more affordable. Inflation-adjusted price of LA-NY flights in the 1970s was around $1,500. Today – $200 (even if there’s no blackjack, hookers, and leg room these days).

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. I do wonder however if the worlds most important graph might have an impact on this graph? As Africa’s population explodes there are going to many more planes flying there, even if the planes are designed to be idiot proof one can expect more crashes to happen there.

  2. Yes. In the US, major passenger plane crashes with hundreds of victims were routine news events even as late as the 1990s and the early 2000s. Happened about once a year, or so.

    The networks would do the same drill every time: crying relatives, overflight of the crash site showing debris, an NTSB official saying something or other… Then, some time in the 2000s these things just stopped. Well, almost – they still cover some oversees crashes.

  3. Like a lot of Pinkerian stuff, I think this really obscures true global trends that are worrisome.

    Yes, planes are being maximized for efficiency, cost, and safety. But, they are also being used for an unprecedented invasion of alien peoples, made possible by these improvements. Some have used them to take down skyscrapers – that other wonder of the 20th century.

    I would prefer 1970s demographics to 2019 safety records and low ticket prices. A lot of the charm of travel is gone as Europe has been infested.

  4. I wonder how much is tweaking and minor incremental improvements and how much is down to larger shifts.

    The introduction of the Boeing 747 in 1970 must have helped a lot. It required longer runways. Many aircraft crash on take-off – running out of runway to abort take-off. So the 747 made all the smaller aircraft somewhat safer without those aircraft being altered at all.

    In 1970 there were many more piston engine aircraft in operation and they are inherently more dangerous than gas turbine aircraft. Lots of moving parts in close proximity, greater fire hazard.

    So even without all the small scale stuff those two changes would influence the graph.

  5. TheBestGuy says

    Jesus, what happened with the huge spike in ’85?