Monday, July 29, 2013

Don't get on a plane with somebody famous!

The number of famous people who die in plane crashes is alarming. After making a comment on Craig Murray's blog, based simply on the huge number of famous people who have died in crashes, I was challenged to provide figures. My comment related to the death of Michael Hastings the American investigative journalist whose car exploded and who was working on some sensitive revelations at the time. I wrote:

"As to deaths in crashes public figures are much more likely to die than ordinary individuals. It does need some thorough research but Hastings’ death was convenient, to say the least, for those he was investigating. Likewise Bob Cryer’s death was convenient for the US military at Menwith Hill. How dare Bob Cryer, an English MP, criticise the US for having a base on English soil without parliamentary approval?"

Although I was convinced I was right, and thought there must be some research to support my opinion, I was unable to find any significant study into the subject, which of course does not mean that no study exists. So I set about researching it myself, admittedly in a non-academic way. Because of the well-advertised safety record of aircraft companies I thought it was a good place to start. What I found was not that there was, say twice as much a chance of a famous person dying in a plane crash but an alarming 27 times the probability, and most likely even higher than that. The figures cover the decade 2001-2010. Column 1 gives the year and column two the number of famous deaths, while column 3, after the colon, gives the total number of deaths for the year. Accumulated totals are given below the line.

2001 = 13 : 4140
2002 = 05 : 1413

2003 = 02 : 1230
2004 = 05 :   771
2005 = 03 : 1459
2006 = 06 : 1294
2007 = 06 :   971
2008 = 03 :   884
2009 = 08 : 1103
2010 = 03 : 1115
Total = 54 : 14,380

According to the National Safety Council the lifetime odds of death from a plane or space incident in 2008 was a 1 in 7178 chance. Using this as a mean figure it can be seen that the expected total deaths from plane crashes for the decade based on the deaths of famous personalities should be somewhere in the region of 387, 612 (that is 54 x 7178) but actual total deaths amount to 14,380, making it virtually 27 times more dangerous if you are famous. Admittedly this unfunded and inadequate study is not rocket science and more serious research should be embarked upon to corroborate the assumption, or disprove it. Also I do not know how the National Safety Council arrived at its figure of 1 in 7178 but presumed that it was based on the total number of passengers divided by those killed in air-disasters.

The figures may be even more alarming because the famous deaths' column only includes incidents where somebody famous has died in an air-disaster, whereas some incidents involved multiple deaths, for example, in 2010 the crash which killed the president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, also killed the first lady, Maria Kaczynski, and at least five other high-profile Polish politicians. Being famous appears to seriously heighten the chances of a premature death. Don't get on a plane with somebody famous.

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