niktemadur writes: In light of an Air Comet pilot's report to Air France, Airbus and the Spanish civil aviation authority that, during a Monday flight from Lima to Lisbon "Suddenly, we saw in the distance a strong and intense flash of white light, which followed a descending and vertical trajectory and which broke up in six seconds", the Cosmic Variance blog team on the Discover Magazine website muses on the question "What is the probability that, for all flights in history, one or more could have been downed by a meteor?". Taking into account total flight hours and the rate of meteoric activity with the requisite mass to impact on Earth (approximately 3,000 a day), some quick math suggests there may be one in twenty odds of a plane being brought down in the period from 1989 to 2009. Intriguingly, in the aftermath of TWA flight 800's crash in 1996, the New York Times published a letter by Columbia professors Charles Hailey (physics) and David Helfand (astronomy), in which they stated the odds of a meteor-airplane collision for aviation history up to that point: one in ten.
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