Black swans on the water?

From the Freakonomics blog, June 11, 2006, titled Airplane nonsense, by Steven Levitt:

So many of the rules and regulations regarding what happens on airplanes seem completely ridiculous […]

Finally, when they read the safety instructions at the beginning of the flight, they go through the whole song and dance about “in the unlikely event of a water landing…” and all the precautions in place to deal with that happening. My friend Peter Thompson did some research on this. At least going back to 1970, which by my estimation encompasses over 150 million commercial airline flights, there has not been a single water landing! (Some planes explode and fall into the water, but he couldn’t find anything resembling a water landing where any of those instructions might help you.) So perhaps 15 billion customer trips have heard that 10-15 second set of instructions without it ever being useful to anyone. […]

In general, it seems like many of the rules in place exist devoid of any sense of economic reality concerning costs and benefits. Many of these regulations impose costs (maybe small ones, but costs just the same) while providing essentially no benefit (e.g. the water landing stuff).

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