Tuesday, June 02, 2009

On air

The flight out of Perpignan airport was horrible. The plane banked towards a mountain and then flipped towards the sea. Screaming children went quiet. "Finally," I thought, "I get why flying is scary." It was the first week in September 2001.

Since then I've flown rarely. My flight to Australia was the first time in three years, and I found the whole thing horrible. I spent the last seven hours on the flight back rigid with fear. Air travel has been described as moments of terror followed by hours of tedium, but I am perfectly capable of sitting rigid with fear for seven hours. I even watched Twilight thinking "please don't let me die while watching this".

But I landed. And I thought "Well, that was terrible. But flying's actually pretty safe."

And then that Air France flight went missing. And the news yesterday was full of experts saying "Well, even if X happpened, then there's always system Y, or, in an emergency, there's an onboard windmill that will power the thing, or failing that, it can actually fly without engines for half an hour at least...."

And you think "yeah, right. That didn't help all the poor people on board." It's the kind of news that makes you shudder. I can hear about other stories and feel for the victims, but every time I hear about a plane crash, there's the sympathy, followed by a big portion of "next time, that'll be me". Cos I'm a selfish, scared bugger.

Of course, the media doesn't help by immediately running off to an airport to film hysterical relatives. When on earth did that become acceptable footage?

UPDATE: No, BBC News, What's Being Said On The Web isn't really valid reporting, either is it? Of course, let's rush to give a forum poster wider airing for this gem: "Could it be possible that the aircraft was kidnapped by aviation knowledgeable people, forced the crew to send the "automatic" message and then continued in silence to land somewhere in the enormous Amazonas region or in Africa? ". Would you run a "Send us your theories about what happened to Maddie" page?

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