By: AirTravellerPH Staff
The most dangerous phase in a flight is not during cruise, it is during take-off and landing, when the aircraft's proximity to the ground is close and the airplane is flying slow. During these phases, pilots give their 101% attention to the whole situation. The cabin crew on the other hand concentrate on the move of the aircraft so incase of an emergency, they know right away what to do.
Most fatal crashes also happen during the take-off and landing phase. In a study by Boeing, 49% of all fatal crashes from 1959 to 2016 occured during final approach. Take-off and and starting to climb accounts for 14%.
This is why airline crew are very strict when it comes to following every bit of safety instruction like keeping seatbelts on, keeping window shades up, and so on. In fact, successful landings are considered by pilots as "controlled crashes".
So why are these the most dangerous phase in a flight?
As discussed above, anything can happen during these phases like bird strikes, engines injesting runway debris, landing gear problems, crosswinds, mid-air collisions, and so on. In fact, as the aircraft comes closer to the ground, the more they are also closer to other aircraft moving at almost the same speed rather than at cruising altitude where aircraft are quite distant from one another.
Landing an aircraft is actually more hazardous than take-offs but both have their challenges. Airplanes love to fly, and they are designed to fly that sometimes, it can get tricky making them stop especially in the presence of unpredictable winds and slippery runways.
Only 11% of fatal accidents happen during cruise level and this accounts for 57% of the flight phase based on a 1.5 hour flight.
Take-off is also a very critical and dangerous point of a flight. Both Lion Air and Ethiopian Air Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes happened during the climb, when the sensor on the Maneuvering Characteristic Augmentation System (MCAS) allegedly malfunctioned. The US Airways "Miracle on the Hudson" water landing happened during take-off when the aircraft suffered a multiple birdstrike and both engines flamed out.
During take-off, the pilot calls V1 and V2. Basically, V1 is the "commit to fly" speed, meaning, even during an engine failure, the aircraft has to fly. It is the decision speed where there is no more stopping no matter what happens. V2 on the other hand is the speed where the airplane will climb in the event of an engine failure. This is also known as "take-off safety speed."
This is why until the pilot switches off the fasten seatbelt sign, passengers have to always be prepared for anything, even if air travel nowadays are very safe. Once the aircraft is on the climb and the aircraft suffers and engine failure, it will take some time for the pilot to land the aircraft again for an emergency.
So always remember that when the flight crew gives you instructions to prepare for take-off and landing, be sure to follow them as this is actually a very dangerous phase of the flight. Never take these instructions for granted as they may mean life or death situations.