Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Mad as a March Hare

Alpine tragedy. 'Nuff said?

Actually, no, that is not enough said.

Airplanes falling out of the sky for no apparent reason is quite a rational fear. It harks back to our ancestor's earliest days. The main reason we have stereoscopic vision is so we can accurately judge how far away that next branch is; because we all instinctively know that if we miss it we are going to fall and the fear of falling is inbuilt. It's in our genes.

When we get on a plane that genetic fear is triggered again. We are afraid of falling. No matter how many time we are told that flying is safer than crossing a road, we still feel instinctively frightened. There are, of course, some people who insist they love flying. They are called idiots or downright liars.

Still, we all need to fly sometimes as the alternatives are either too inconvenient, too expensive or just plain not there. (I did see the other day some crazy idea to make a land route from Europe to Canada/US via the Bering strait – this I've got to see! In my lifetime? Not likely.) Check out: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/11493681/Plans-for-superhighway-linking-Britain-and-America.html

We get on the plane and we not only overcome our natural fear, but our problems are compounded by putting our lives in the hands of a large number of strangers – and the pilots are only part of it. There's the ground crew, responsible for seeing that our plane doesn't run into something whilst still on the ground (you may think this is much preferable to crashing, but the result is about the same – a plane full of fuel is likely to explode on the ground if you run into something), the air traffic controllers, the maintenance crews, the refuelling crews (remember the guys who didn't put enough go-juice in the BA flight that just made the runway at Heathrow a few years ago?). The list is long. And everything has to function perfectly for us to safely arrive at our destination. No wonder most of us are not all that keen.

All this becomes irrelevant if just one of the links in the chain becomes broken.

This is what seems to have happened to the Germanwings flight. The pilot crashed the plane, deliberately.

This is not in the script of possible frightening situations. Should it be? Probably yes, but no amount of pre-flight checks are likely to have had much chance of picking up this scenario. In the old days we would just call it an Act of God. Perhaps that is the best phrase for it.