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A little knowledge about crashes can be a dangerous thing

WITHIN three minutes of the first reports of the crash at Tripoli airport breaking, a rumour had begun, fuelled by Twitter, that volcanic ash was responsible -- even though the Libyan airport is many hundreds of miles from any significant concentrations.

Within 10 minutes someone had pointed out, on an aviation forum, that the type of aircraft involved -- an Airbus A330-200 -- was the same as the Air France jet lost over the Atlantic between Rio and Paris almost a year ago.

In most respects high-speed communication benefits society, but not when it heightens fear and alarm, as these two instant responses are likely to do.

Travellers' perceptions of risk are already quite distorted enough.

You might think it harmless to err on the side of caution and mentally magnify the risks of flying.

But a little knowledge about plane crashes can be a dangerous thing if you respond by inadvertently increasing your risk exposure. Irish airlines are uncommonly safe: for example, Ryanair carries more people in a week than Afriqiyah Airways does in a year, and has not suffered a fatality in two decades of flying.

I would gladly step aboard an Airbus A330 this morning -- so long as I survived the journey to the airport.