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Home > Profession > Is the pilot profession the second most dangerous job in America?
Is the pilot profession the second most dangerous job in America?
Flying - Profession
Friday, 02 December 2005 06:18

Hi Captain Lim,

CNN reports that the US Labor Department ranks pilots and navigators as the second deadliest occupation in the country. This seems alarming to me. I have flown before, both longer (6+ hour) and shorter (2 hour) flights, but I never feel comfortable in the air. What startles me is that, occupations such as truck driver and taxi driver are ranked safer than piloting.

Do you have any thoughts about why this is the case? Is there really a huge difference between scheduled service and general aviation? Besides that, is there some sort of break down of the risk of commercial pilot versus someone who is more of freelance flyer?

To read the article follow this link, please go
here.

Thanks,

Arman

Hi Arman,

Do you know that many people often make very general observation of what is released by the media? Sometimes, it is the reporting that can be confusing to the public or someone who aspires to join this profession. Yes, the US Labor statistics did report that aircraft pilots rank second with 92 killed for every 100,000 pilots on the job. Remember, the label *aircraft pilots* includes bush, crop dusting, banner towing and airline pilots. It is true, crop dusting and bush flying are among some of the most dangerous jobs but certainly not airline pilots! That is why, I often qualify my statements when I discuss the safety of flying by saying that is refers to commercial airlines and not to general aviation or helicopter flying.

Why is it so? Some bush pilots, crop dusters and air taxi pilots are generally those with lesser experience. Most of them are building up their flying hours so that they can join the airlines later on. In addition, private flying and instructional flying in general aviation also account for the bulk of the accidents. Private pilots on their own are more likely to neglect safety rules. Yes, training, experience and judgment are some of the most important factors in contributing to a safe flight. So, with little flying experience, some operating with older equipment, less stringent maintenance (amongst others), it makes the jobs of some of these pilots rather tough, brutal and dangerous sometimes!

On the other hand, airline pilots are highly trained, have better planes, maintain a good standard in CRM (Cockpit Resources Management), make flying very safe indeed. You can*t have real safety if, as what the media claims, that your pilots on the Boeing 747, 777 or the future Airbus A380, will be manned by operators who share the dangers of jobs like those of the loggers or fishermen!

Sorry, I do not have any break down of the risk of commercial pilot versus someone who is more of a freelance flyer. I can however say that, an airline pilot job ranks very much lower than that of a taxi or truck driver in terms fatality on the job.

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Regarding your response to experience
I would like to point out that many crop-dusters, like my grandpa, for example, have over 15,000 hours. The reason that crop dusting is more dangeous is that they work long hours (usually between 10-16 a day, depending on work orders) and in many cases 7 days a week. They spend most of their time below 200 ft. AGL, and when applying chemicals, about 5 ft off the ground. As opposed to airline pilots who spend most of their time going in a virtually straight line at 30,000 ft.
Experience does have something to do with it, but bush and ag pilots are among the best in the world, there are just far more things that can go wrong. Theres generally no ATC monitoring your every move.
Jake Smith , 28 Feb, 2009

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