AOPA sprang into action this weekend to help quell misperceptions following the Denver midair collision. Friday evening a Cessna 172 and Piper Cheyenne collided over a northwest Denver neighborhood. Five people on board the aircraft were killed; there were six minor injuries on the ground.
An AOPA spokesman explained to Denver media that midair collisions are very rare. Out of some 49 million general aviation flights last year, there were seven midair collisions, and only four collisions that produced fatalities. And the risk to people on the ground is also very small. In the past six years, there have been less than two fatalities or serious injuries per year to people on the ground from aircraft accidents. In fact, the chances of someone on the ground being injured or killed by an aircraft accident are one in 50 million—you stand a much greater chance of falling down stairs and dying (one in 4 million) or being struck by lightning (one in 700,000).
AOPA also explained the procedures pilots follow to avoid midair collisions, including scanning for traffic, communicating on CTAF frequencies in the vicinity of a nontowered airport, utilizing "flight following" services, and the hemispheric cruising rules.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has published a Safety Advisor on collision avoidance that is free to all pilots.