"Fly the friendly skies" That's what United Airlines encourages us to do. But there are no guarantees and lately it seems less likely then ever to be true. The skies are decidedly unfriendly to the commercial airline these days. Not to mention the animosity toward paying passengers. It seems that between terrorism, weather, ineptness and stupidity buying a airline ticket to anywhere is akin to buying into the national lottery. You might win, but there is a cost and sometimes the price is too high.
Earlier this year, Malaysian flight #MH370 vanished into thin air (or deep waters) with nearly 250 people aboard. There have been comparisons to Amelia Earharts' disappearance in 1937 which has also never been found. However in this day and age of high tech gadgetry it seems more unbelievable that this would even be possible. Commercial aircraft have locator beacons that can be used in such a case - but they can be disabled and have a limited period of usefulness if they are on. Why spend the money to install them if they won't help in such conditions? The search has long since been called off with no answers forthcoming. Meanwhile countless numbers of friends, family members have lost (in the true sense of the word) all knowledge of the whereabouts and well-being of people who mattered.
There is "Something special in the air" according to American Airlines but that special something may be something that you don't want or expect. As you soar above the clouds it seems that in some parts of the world you may have missiles and radar signals aimed at the wide body jet poised to bring you down. That passenger next to you could be the kook that has smuggled a new weapon of mass destruction aboard. If you are lucky, your flight will be turned back and stormed by the SWAT team. It happened with a Sunwing flight that had just left Canadian airspace when someone made bomb threats aboard. Ironically passengers spoke more of the fear brought by the on-board siege by the police than by being blown out of the sky. Remember the concept of good guys vs bad guys, people?
"Live today. Tomorrow will cost more." But does Pan American World Airways tell you that the cost could be to live your last day in the air. Whatever was on the agenda for the nearly 300 passengers aboard Malaysian flight 17 I doubt "die today" was at the top. But as they cruised far above a war zone, they were still within striking distance of military fire power. And with no goodbyes...down they came and not at their intended destination. Panic ensued and flights in the area were cancelled for a couple of days and then returned to normal as the caskets bearing the dead were transported on their true final flight.
Weather was the downfall of Taiwan's TransAsia Airways flight GE222 that took with it 47 souls, including at least one which wasn't even aboard the plane. Wrong place at the wrong time. Or someone playing a game of chance with the lives of others. 200 other flights had been cancelled in the area due to poor weather conditions.
Maybe the pilot of the Air Algerie flight should have turned back when encountering poor weather instead of just requesting a different flight plan. I doubt that the new flight plan including an unscheduled stop in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately it was a relatively quick "Find the needle in the haystack" game that led to the location of another 116 unsuspecting flyers.
500 people plus another 250 lost souls in plane fatalities, has me for one, questioning the safety of flight. I've always been one of those that looks up to the sky and engineering be damned, planes don't belong up there. And there are so many of them. The fact that there aren't more ground or mid-air collisions boggles my mind. Flying is something I tolerate rather than enjoy. So much can go wrong and although fatalities are lessening, my fear increases. Stories about sub-standard parts and used parts going into planes makes me uneasy. Pilots with not enough experience or not enough sleep botching landings. To be fair, with the exception of this most recent rash of fatal airline accidents, safety has been increasing steadily. In the five years prior to 2013 there was an average of 1 fatal accident in 1.6 million flights. That increased to 1 in 1.9 million flights. Considering that air traffic has increased and continues on the upswing, it is still perceived to be safe - weather concerns and war-zones aside. 3 billion people on 36.4 million flights last year with less than 50 crashes in all. And fewer fatalities in the year than in the past couple of months.
So what are the options. For the number of vehicles on our roads and driver error and distraction being key factors, cars remain the most dangerous mode of transportation. No argument here, but having survived my share of collisions, and with the improvements in the safety of vehicles, I believe that my chances of survival are greater than if I fall out of the sky in a metal bird. And fatal accidents are declining with the inclusion of airbags and other safety features. For comfort and a measure of control over my destiny, I will ride the asphalt freedom trail.
Buses are wonderful for inner city travel but long distance has all of the appeal of a port-a-potty without an air freshener. With seats slightly more comfortable than restrictive quarters of an aircraft but that snoring or loud or obnoxious or smelly seat mate will be by you side for potentially hours or days - depending on where you are going. There is no escape. A walk of the aisle will take you seconds. And frankly I will never be able to get on a long distance bus ride ever again without thinking of the young passenger who was be-headed by a passenger who was carrying the weapon to do the deed. Security is non-existent in an era where security of self is on the fore-front of everyone's mind. Fatalities on the road would be just as likely as for cars but with long hours behind the wheel, driver fatigue can be more of an issue.
|somewhere in the eastern provinces|
view from the dome car
|Sunrise view from the train|
Whether you are ensconced in metal or fibre-glass or a composite your chances of survival or minimal injuries is still far greater than if you are on two-wheels (motorized or not) or two-feet. Especially it seems in Halifax! Let's keep our eyes open out there.
Be as safe as you can where ever you may go!
credit where credit is due:
Aviation Safety by the Numbers
Is it safer to fly, drive or take the train