Is Flying a Light Aircraft Easier Than Driving a Car?

With all the high-tech stuff big airplanes have, like autopilot and autothrottle systems, you might be thinking that flying couldn’t be that hard. Well, there may be some truth to that, but saying that it is easy discredits all the training pilots had to go through to properly fly a plane and bring it back safely to the ground consistently. In reality, there’s much more to flying than you may think.


Steering: Flying vs Driving

First, if by flying, you mean just being already in the air and steering the plane, it’s probably easier. Almost all aircraft are dynamically stable. It means that if you let go of the yoke, the plane will tend to make a steady, straight, and level flight, with all other things being equal. Most modern aircraft are designed to be a bit lenient, provided they are loaded correctly (not overloaded or having unbalanced cargo). You won’t have to worry about the plane spinning or stalling unexpectedly. The basic controls of most airplanes, such as the yoke, rudder pedals, and throttle, can also be learned relatively quickly.

Comparing that to driving isn’t exactly fair. You see, an airplane in a cruise flight doesn’t need a lot of minor corrections to stay in the air. Cars, on the other hand, require constant monitoring and adjustments to keep in lane. Even if a car has cruise control, the driver has to pay attention, or he might hit something. While the sky has a lot more room than the roads, this doesn’t mean pilots can overlook their surroundings. A plane’s autopilot system will maintain a proper speed and flight path, but the pilot still has to monitor it carefully.

It is during takeoff, climb, descent and landing when pilots are much more involved. These may require more concentration than driving. Landing, in particular, is more complex and can be dangerous. A pilot has to know several important things first, such as the basics of the traffic pattern, glideslope indicators, the appropriate glideslope throttle, etc. On a good, sunny day, the landing may not be much of a problem. But landing with a gusty crosswind can get significantly bumpier. Add rain and low visibility, and things become even more thrilling. This is when pilots’ awareness of weather conditions and their risks, and an emergency plan if things go south, come into play. It is hard enough to drive on a wet road with low visibility. Landing a plane under these conditions isn’t particularly lovely.


The Odds of Accidents: Flying vs Driving

But you may be wondering, if flying is all that hard, why are there more deaths from car accidents than plane crashes. Statistically, that is true. The odds of you dying from a plane crash is only 1 in 5.4 million flights, while the odds of you dying from a car crash is 1 in 103. These numbers are ridiculously far apart. However, you have to consider the amount of training and certifications a pilot has to complete before being allowed to fly. If you had a hard time getting your driver’s license, you’d be surprised how difficult it is to receive a pilot’s license. Flying may be the safest form of transportation, but one has to work hard in order to become a pilot.

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