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Why I avoid flying (and why taking a train is better)

I do not avoid flying because of a fear of flying. I have flown small planes myself and have even flown solo in small planes many years ago. Actually, I never even gave safety issues related to flying a second thought until I started to take flying lessons. I just looked at the safety statistics that we are all fed by the airline industry and accecpted it as the safest mode of transportation. That was before I knew better. Once I became more educated and experienced related to flying, my level of confidence in flying has never returned to what it was when I was ignorant of such things.

I do my best to avoid flying, but I still do fly when that is the only method that reasonably fits in my travel plans. I am not a "white knuckled" flyer either. I know the probability of death or injury using any transportation method is pretty low. But, when a variety of transportation options fit into my travel plans, I will select the safer and more pleasant mode of travel. That rules out the air travel option!

(This is just the start for this section. I will continue to add material to this section explaining why I choose rail travel over air travel and why I think you would be wise to do the same. The main focus of this section will be regarding why it is safer to travel by rail than by air, though other benefits of rail travel over air travel will also be mentioned.)



First, forget all the statistics you have ever been fed about air travel being the safest mode of transportation. You have been given a very distorted view of the actual statistics. You probably believe that it is safer to fly from Los Angeles to New York than to drive to the grocery store around the corner. That is simply not true. A more valid argument could be made that it is safer to fly than to drive from Los Angeles to New York, though even that comparison is not as simple as it may seem.

The deceptive statistics are created by the airline industry, including the FAA, by using a view of the statistics that places air travel in the best light relative to other transportation methods. That measure is "per mile of travel." Let us examine the flaw in this method of measuring safety. Let us say that someday we invent a way of traveling to the nearest star. We are able to make this trip with no injuries or fatalities. Unfortunately, there are no planets orbiting the nearest star for us to land on, so we are sucked into the star and vaporized. Every expedition that we launch ends up with the same result: a long safe voyage followed by death for all the passengers. Measured in "injuries and fatalities per mile of travel," this would still be the safest method of travel that man has ever known! Even though everyone dies on every trip, we end up with wonderful safety statistics when we divide the number of deaths by the number of miles traveled!

For most of us, the distance between point A and point B is not a relevant safety factor. All we want to know is what our chances are of getting from point A to point B without death or injury. In other words, what is the rate of death or injury relative to the number of trips taken.


"Do passengers get enough oxygen? Experts examine a threat that affects everyone who flies." according to a USA Today cover story on Tuesday, March 6, 2001. The number of reported heart attacks, faintings and other medical emergencies aboard airlines continues to soar. The FAA are reevaluating a standard that was set decades ago based on studies on healthy servicement in altitude chambers. The pressure in airline cabins is usually set to the equivalent of standing on an 8,000-foot mountain which results in less oxygen entering the bloodstream to reach vital organs. In a healthy airline passenger, this condition, known as "hypoxia", usually results in no more than a headache and a feeling of fatigue. Passengers with breathing or circulatory problems - even ones that the passenger does not himself know that he has -- can suffer serious medical emergencies when the cabin pressure drops.

More than 100 people died last year due to medical reasons while in-flight or shortly after leaving the flight. The number of people that died on trains due to medical reasons during their rail travel or just after is extremely low. This is interesting to note considering the proportion of senior rail travelers is much higher than the number of seniors in the general population since they make up one of the largest segments of the traveling public that has adequate free time to travel long distances by rail.

For more information, read: Flying Blind, Flying Safewritten by Mary Schiavo, the Former Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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