Inevitability, need to get me a plan

(Article created 17/10/2008 11:38)


(Photo: Aloha Flight 243, Boeing 737-200 after an explosive decompression at 24,000 feet - 1 Crew member died, most passengers had their seatbelts on and were not sucked out)

Inevitable: "incapable of being avoided or evaded"

OK, this time next week I'll either: 1) survived my first flight in 18 years, 2) Bottled it or 3) be as dead as fried chicken in a burning lake of aviation fuel. The smart money will be on 3) but I'm kinda hoping for 1) (call me picky). 2) is out of the question 1,700 for the flights and the same again for the villa means a lot of money lost - this will also mean no sex for like ten years or something... (Well I guess I could live with that... Er, maybe not)...

The Carrier...
All right, I'm going to have to do it - what can I do? The only answer is have a plan and research what I'm up against. Easyjet is (so far) a one of the safest airlines in the world. They use modern aircraft and Airsafe.com shows Easyjet as having an accident rate of 0.00 in 0.76 Million flights (as of 2005). So Easyjet are good at their stuff and take flying serious - (so probably no slack servicing/maintenance and no retard factor of someone putting the wrong parts in). Maintenance-related errors have been associated with up to 15% of major aircraft accidents (Murray, 1998) and Allan and Marx (1993) found that maintenance errors are the second leading cause of fatal accidents in aviation (exceeded only by pilot error - two thirds of serious aircraft accidents are due to flight crew errors)

The Aircraft...
A quick check reveals the plane to be a Boeing 737-700 (Eayjet are moving to the Airbus A319), although 66 fatal accidents are listed for the 737, which span 36 years, only two accident events are attributed to the 737-700 in 18.75 Million flights. This is looking more promising (but it was a 737 that went down at Kegworth, nevermind). Some of the statistics on Aircraft accident rates are difficult to put into context (good airlines, bad airlines are difficult to determine). The aircraft itself is the primary cause in only 13 percent of serious aircraft accidents.

The Flight
The flight is only two hours and ten minutes. Intuitively, I view this as significantly safer than say a 12 hour flight - after all, I'll only be exposed to the "risk of flying" for a couple of hours. However, the facts show this to be not entirely correct. All flights consist of three phases, with accidents during each of these at significantly differing rates: 1) Takeoff and climb (approx. 35 percent of accidents), 2) Cruise (approx 6 percent of accidents) and 3) Descent, approach and landing (almost 60 percent of accidents). The second phase, cruise, is the safest phase of aircraft flight - long flights don't significantly increase the risk factor.

Engine Failure
One of my worst fears. However, my expectation of a chubby fat diva of a plane dropping like a brick, was dispelled when watching National Geographic Air Crash Investigations and seeing these gigantic tin cans being glided down to the ground. Also, according to Boeing, 90 percent of new aircraft deliveries are twinjets (planes with two engines) and these planes can fly on a single engine for an extended period of time. The chance of failure of both engines has been calculated at one in a billion per hour of flight, so for my two hour flight the odds of both engines failing is around 1 in 500 Million.

The Safest Seat
Although Boeing say one seat is as safe as another. The reality is that it's actually Safer in the back. Passengers sitting near the tail of an aircraft are actually 40 percent more likely to survive a crash. Of 20 crashes analyzed only 5 fared people sitting in the front of the aircraft. The overall survival rate at the front was 49 percent, over-wing and ahead of the wing 56% and behind the wing 69 percent.Personally, I hate sitting in the tail of an airplane, I'm not claustrophobic but it feels so cramped and uncomfortable. Ironically, I prefer sitting over the wings believing it to be the strongest part of the plane even though I'm probably sitting over a massive fuel tank and between two engines rotating at 10,000 RPM. Thinking about it, the higher survival rates for passengers at the rear of an aircraft makes some sense. During a rapid deceleration incident the front of the plane may absorb more of the impact energy; during emergency evacuation's passengers tend to head forward (maybe from the direction they boarded, maybe because they are looking forward and only see the exits ahead), in some cases going 10 rows forward to an exit instead of back just 1 or 2 rows.

Sh....It happens
Though Statistically it will not, I can't help but remember the scene in Rain Man where Dustin Hoffman refuses to board the plane only to be told that "all other airlines have crashed at one time or another and that (it) doesn't mean that they are not safe", to which Hoffman suggests Quantas who at that time had no accidents but recently had several incidents (though none fatal). So I guess if it's going down it's going down whichever carrier you use, the only hope if you are ever in an accident that it is a survivable one and that you're sitting in a lucky seat. Helped, of course, by having the mental foresight to plan escape routes covering various accident scenarios (fire at the front, fire at the back, front/back dangling over a cliff, mass panic at one exit etc etc).

So what the hell.... check SeatGuru.com for the best seats, sit back and Suckit and See....

Tags: Details | Crazy | Flying | WTF