Amanda Ripley

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Was Rain Man Right about Qantas??

26th Jul 2008 posted in General

The emergency landing of the Qantas Boeing 747 in Manila yesterday reminded me of how little most of us know about what it actually feels like to be in a rapid decompression. So I did a story on this for Time.com, with help from Todd Curtis, a former safety analyst at Boeing whose web site, airsafe.com, is an extremely helpful resource for anyone who is afraid of flying.

I recommend checking out this footage from inside the cabin for a classic example of how most people behave in most disasters. Notice that the only one crying in the video is a baby.

I also asked Todd if yesterday’s accident should shake Rain Man’s confidence in Qantas. He said no, to the relief of us all. The story was already closed by the time I got his response to this particular question, but I thought I would share his answer here, because it’s so totally and inexplicably fascinating:

There is some truth to the Rain Man movie. In short, Qantas has no fatal passenger events. There have certainly been significant safety events such as those listed on http://airsafe.com/events/airlines/qantas.htm

On the other hand, Southwest has had far more flights than Qantas, also without fatal passenger events….If you use an objective risk measure such as whether an airline has had no passenger fatalities caused directly by the airline, then most airlines in the world (most much smaller and much younger than Qantas) are as safe as Qantas.

So I guess this tells us at least three things: 1. There are very few fatal airplane accidents on any airline ever. 2. Southwest rocks. 3. Qantas got some fabulous product placement, before there even was product placement.

Thanks, Todd.