Boeing Planes Are Falling Apart, But Flying Is Still an Incredibly Safe Way to Travel

With new headlines cropping up week after week about Boeing's nonstop woes, it's easy to be afraid to fly — but by the numbers, it's still one of the least dangerous ways to travel.

Negative headlines about the aerospace giant have proliferated ever since Alaska Airlines' door plug blowout in January, including the deaths of two Boeing whistleblowers, the first of whom died under mysterious circumstances. To make matters worse, pieces keep falling off Boeing jets, which have also been plagued by other mechanical issues.

The bad vibes in the recent spate of coverage of flight safety in general and Boeing's issue in particular don't exactly inspire confidence. But statistically, it's still way safer to fly than to drive.

"Certainly Boeing has had some production problems, which they’re working their way through, and it’s not a good look," aviation safety expert Geoffrey Thomas told CNN earlier this year. "But the bottom line is that there are so many checks in place now that I don’t believe anybody should be concerned."

Back in 2017, Harvard performed a macabre statistical analysis, finding that the risk of any serious plane crash at all is roughly one in 2.56 million flights. Compare that to findings from David Ropeik, another Harvard risk researcher who in 2006 originated the claim that the chances of dying in a car crash were one in 5,000 per year.

With that gigantic disparity, flying should be a no-brainer. So what gives?

As Vox excellently explained in an April rundown of this year's airplane coverage, there appears to be a confirmation bias at play, making folks more scared to fly than ever because there are more stories going viral about mishaps on jets. Responding to those fears, media outlets are covering plane issues all the more.

Take a story about a Boeing 737 in New Zealand whose engine flare-up led to an emergency landing. Passengers were quoted by the New Zealand Herald on the panic that ensued when their plane's engine caught on fire — but as it turns out, that happened not because of something uniquely wrong with the Boeing-made jetliner, but because an unfortunate bird seemed to have flown into them. And at the end of the day, in a testament to the extraordinary safety measures in modern jets, the plane landed safely and everyone was fine.

In fact, perhaps the most striking figure is that there were zero commercial passenger flight deaths in the entire world in 2023 (small aircraft remain deadly, though; earlier this month, the 90-year-old NASA astronaut William Anders, who took the stunning "Earthrise" photo that defined the golden era of space travel, died when he crashed a small plane off the coast of Seattle.)

There's no doubt to anyone paying attention that something serious is going with Boeing as a company, especially with more and more investigations cropping up into its manufacturing processes and the kind of alleged corner-cutting measures its whistleblowers have long warned.

But organizational drama aside, you're physically far safer flying than driving — though that might not stop you or your fellow passengers from freaking out if something goes wrong on your flight.

More on planes: FAA Now Investigating Counterfeit Components in Boeing and Airbus Planes