JANUARY 22, 1947
NEW YORK, Tuesday—I mentioned casually the other day that I was going to fly back from a trip which I was taking, and to my surprise, several women around me said: "Aren't you afraid to fly after all the accidents?" That thought had never occurred to me. We go right on travelling by automobile, yet many more people are killed by automobiles every year than by almost any other method of transportation.
The railroads, by patient work, have achieved a very high percentage of safety, but there have been of late, and there always will be, a certain number of accidents. Ships, on the whole, are a very safe method of transportation, but even in ordinary travel, sinkings occur.
Our domestic carrier airplanes in 1940 flew 108,800,436 revenue miles. In 1945, they flew 214,959,855 miles; and in 1946, 328,644,764 miles. The overseas lines in 1940 flew 10,716,827 miles; in 1945, 32,630,552; and in 1946, 67,950,557. With this increase in mileage flown and a great increase in the number of passengers carried, there was naturally an increase in the number of accidents involving fatalities.
The domestic scheduled airlines had a total of 3 accidents involving fatalities in 1940, 8 in 1945, and 9 in 1946. The overseas operators had no fatal accidents in 1940, 2 in 1945, and 2 in 1946. Some 1946 figures on traffic are still on an estimated basis, but the others are accurate. On a percentage basis, therefore, passenger fatalities have not greatly increased. In 1940, 35 passengers were killed on domestic airlines; in 1945, 76 were killed; and in 1946, 73. The fatalities for overseas passengers were none in 1940, 17 in 1945, and 40 in 1946.
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The airlines are spending a tremendous amount of money in studying and putting into effect methods of improving schedule reliability, bettering passenger service and insuring safety.
I must say that the thing which bothers me in winter flying is the fact that one is never sure if fog or ice or snow is going to impede one's progress. For that reason, if I am going somewhere to keep a lecture engagement, I nearly always go by train in the winter months, then return by air.
I am enormously interested in the installing of radar units which enable planes to be landed safely even in fog. The Army and CAA developed some of these mechanisms during the war, and the private airlines are working in cooperation with them now.