This aviation app sounds morbid but in today’s digital age it’s all about being informed. With the ‘Am I Going Down?’ app, you simply enter in your departure, destination, airline, and aircraft, and it tells you what the odds based on those factors that your flight will come crashing out of the sky. The app’s designers say that the software, based on real-time statistics, was created to reassure fearful passengers that flying is safe. For example, with an American Airlines flight on an Airbus A330, you have 1 in 3,646,151 chance of crashing. Or better: you'd expect to go down only if you took this flight every single day for 9,989 years. Metro spoke to Nic Johns, developer and co-founder of London-based firm Vanilla Pixel behind the app, which operates on iOS and costs $0.99.
Why did you create this app?
— The original inspiration for 'Am I Going Down?' comes from my wife (and co-founder of Vanilla Pixel), Julie, who has a fear of flying. Her fear originated many years ago after backpacking around Australia and South East Asia. Despite many carefree flights that year the final flight home from Bangkok to London was a white-knuckle ride. Ever since that event flying has been traumatic for her - even the airport arrivals sign (which inspired the icon for the app) looks to her like a plane 'going down'.
You’re aiming to alleviate fear of flying, but by drawing attention to it your app could exasperate it, no?
— Of course, we know we can't help everybody - for some people the fear is more emotional, more irrational, and for those people the numbers don't help. But there are a large number for whom the sheer scale of the odds - one in five million, for example - is a comfort in itself. Air travel is in fact incredibly safe, and that's what we're trying to show.
What have you been heard back from users?
— The response from anxious flyers has been amazingly positive, really encouraging. It's possible that people are initially put off by the idea of the app, but we think that once they try it out it's clear that the app is on their side.
And how can the user be sure that the app is offering reliable information?
— The app gathers its raw data from sources such as the U.S. NTSB aviation accident database for crash statistics, and International Civil Aviation Organization for airport data. In analyzing the chance of a crash, the app only includes crashes where there was at least one passenger fatality - which is the relevant statistic for those with a fear of flying. This is then incorporated with the volume of flights, weighted to the most recent 10 years, to provide the final ‘one in a million’ statistics.
How many routes can it analyze?
— There are over 10 million routes. We have included every airport listed by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), so that should be all airports in the world that serve commercial purposes. 'Am I Going Down?’ does try to suggest sensible routes, but if you want to choose impossible combinations it also allows that.
What is the number of airplanes and airlines that the app covers?
— In the first version of the app, we included a good selection of world airlines, about 70 in total. We will release a new version shortly that increases that to 100, adding in some that were requested by users. For the aircraft models we include all the major models used by those airlines.