A Little Clarity

There are two things on my mind today:  Flight MH370 and the shooting yesterday at Fort Hood.  The reactions to both of these are, to me, so completely irrational that I think I need to put down a few thoughts.

I work with some people who have expressed to me that they are now unwilling to fly because of MH370, because the flight disappeared. 

I pointed out to them that this tragedy got so much attention not just because people (apparently) lost their lives, but because a plane disappeared.  Which never happens.

Let me share some statistics with you, to put this in perspective.  I live near Cleveland, OH, and Cleveland is the home to a decent size international airport.  According to a quick internet search, there are 834 international airports currently operating in the world.  Some bigger than Cleveland (CLE), some smaller.  I’d say CLE is about average for a decent sized city in the world.  

Average number of flights leaving CLE every day?  240

Assuming an average airport has, say, 1/3 that many (80), that’s still 66,720 flights every day.

Let me repeat that.  Sixty-six THOUSAND plus flights every day.

That’s 24,090,000 flights annually.  Just from INternational airports.  That’s not counting regional airports, or small airports or even larger airports that don’t happen to have international flights. 24 MILLION flights from international airports.  Every year.

Do you know how many flights crash or go missing every year? That’s been harder to pin down, but I’ll tell you this.  IN 2012, according to the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board in the US), in 2012 there were a grand total of 449 deaths in airplane related accidents.  NONE of them involved commercial airlines.  According to the International Business Times, there’s less than, on average, 200 crashes, annually, since 1943.  The most there were in any given year was in 1943, when there were 562.  

So, assuming 200 crashes annually, and 24M flights — that’s 0.0008333% of all flights crash.

Put it another way, according to NOVA, the chance that you will die in an airplane crash is 1 in just over 2 MILLION.  By contrast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, your chance of getting struck by lighting in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000.  

I think I’ll fly.


Let’s talk about Fort Hood.  There’s a lot of talk on the news about a history of mental health problems.

Again, let’s put that in perspective.  According to a recent study by the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry, 1 in ever 5 soldiers had a history of mental illness when they enlisted.

Let me make something clear.  I respect ALL our soldiers, from every war, in every age, for any reason they chose to serve.  I work in a company where I personally know of 15 vets working in my department alone.  And those are just the ones I’m aware of.  I have nothing but gratitude for anyone willing to serve.

My point with the above statistic is that we then put these courageous men and women (20% of whom had some form of mental illness to begin with) into hostile environments, teach them to kill and send them places where people are actively trying to kill them,  Then we bring them home.  

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 1 in 5 of the brave men and women we bring home from Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  30% of Vietnam Vets were diagnosed with PTSD.  And yet, when asked, “More than 40 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans responding to a recent survey said they did not seek mental health care because of a perceived negative impact on their careers. (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Member Survey 2012)”.

25% need help; 40% won’t even ask.

And people worry about 1 missing plane out of 24 Million?

I realize I’m sounding cold, and that losing those 276 people on MH370 is a tragedy, and hard on their families to not know for sure.

According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University, 1.5 million soldiers have returned from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That’s an estimate 375,000 people who have PTSD, most of whom will not get help.

My point to all this?

I just don’t understand our priorities.  We are spending all this time effort and money to try to save 276 people who are, in all likelihood, beyond help and have been for 26 days.  

For the men and women who fought to keep us safe, the latest budget included $17 Million for mental health in the Military.  

Figuring out what happened to Swiss Air flight that crashed in Canada cost $39 Million in 1998.

Where the hell are our priorities?


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