How bloody calm is everyone else

(Article created 23/10/2008 17:13)

I don't get it, I really don't - 12 hours to go and I'm already a nervous wreck, meanwhile, everyone else going on the same flight are as cool as cucumbers, three little bloody fonzies. "You've gotta go sometime...", "if it happens we can't do anything about it...". I dunno, my appeals to rationality just does not seem to work... "Look forget Spain and it's Puerto Banus, that's just a crazy... What about Whitley Bay and Bills Fish Bar Instead? Yum Yum".

Every 5 seconds....
Still looking at this safety thing, apparently a 737 takes off or lands somewhere in the world every 5 seconds. Now I have two ways of looking at this: 1) They are so routine that airlines have probably got it down to a fine art or 2) they do it so often that the tendency to be complacent arises (i.e. balls it up big time). I had a go taking off with a 737 in Microsoft Flight Simulator, and man was that difficult, first the plane was just going round in circles at the end of Newcastle Airport runway because only one engine was running. Eventually I managed to get the plane moving down the runway (well really zig zagging as though it was trying to dodge a bullet in beruit or something crazy like that). Even at full throttle I couldn't get the plane higher than 10,000 feet. - So really no hope of landing one in an emergency then...

Is it really the safest form of transport
I've done a bit of research of transport fataility and this often spread statistic about "flying being the safest for of transport" is not entirely correct. The site has a bunch of stats that show air travel is the safest form of travel ONLY when fatalities per billion km are compared. When fatalities per billion journeys are compared air is worse than Bus, Rail, Van, Car, Foot and Water - Only having less fatalities per journey than Bicycle and MotorCycle. This is also comparable to the European Commission (2001) analysis which shows Rail to be the Safest form of transport in Europe (with 0.04 fatalaties per billion passenger km), with air, coach/bus each tied with a fatality rate per billion passenger km of 0.08.

95% of Plane Crashes have survivors
According to wikiHow's How to Survive a Plane Crash 95% of all plane crashes have survivors - I'm kinda hoping that when they say this they are not talking about the person who misses the flight. Anyway, it's interesting reading and certainly worthwhile if by chance you find yourself in a survivable crash. wikiHow's How to Overcome a Fear of Flying had some interesting points but their suggestion of "Download or buy a flight simulator and play it. See that flying is very casual and there is nothing to be scared of", just made me worse - trouble taking off with no hope of landing. First I'm at 10,000 feet and then all of a sudden smash, 10 feet under. It would be great in real life if when your plane happened to crash, you were magically transported (a.l.a. GroundHog Day) back to 10,000 feet again or to a point prior to making the mistake that caused the crash - I guess Microsoft weren't going for the realism thing on that one.

Season 5 of Lost
I just realised that if it does go down then I'll not get to see Season 5 of Lost, heck then again I could actually end up in the show as one of those mysterious dudes that all of a sudden show up after being stuck in a Dharma inititive underground bunker for like 10 years or something. Of course I'd be an instant hit with my good lucks, quick wit and charming personality that I'd become rich and famous overnight. I'd be doing shaving ads and sh*t, even taking all the top hot chicks to the oscars. You will all be saying "Look there's that Tovster dude, looking so suave and sexy, man I wish I could be like him!". Anyway, reality check (snaps back to the present reality, not so much with trepidation as shear and absolute terror). Bugger, the wind has gone up from 42 to 45km/h and I can still hear planes taking off, are they crazy? Hopefully they'll cancel the flight and lay a bus on instead. There's only one thing for sure and that's it will be as bumpy as hell...

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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 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 for the best seats, sit back and Suckit and See....

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Flying, Crying and Dying

(Article created 17/10/2008 10:21)

OK, I've been busy deluding myself that maybe (just maybe) this flying thing is do-able. My last flight was Aeroflot in 1990 and after a stint of working for Virgin Atlantic in Crawley, I just didn't dig flying anymore. Nothing happened, no bad experience or anything, I just one day woke up and thought, Never Again, this is just plain dangerous.

Every time I've built up enough courage to book a flight something happens. The last time was the day concord crashed on the day I was about to book a regular flight to Southampton. For the budapest flight, I just wussed it and didn't turn up, lucky too as they had to divert to Edinburgh to wait for the weather to clear in Newcastle and apparently it was hair-raising final landing at Newcastle (so glad I bottled it).

I realized you can't dodge it forever so we booked the flights with Easyjet for a week in Spain, the day after two planes crashed near where I used to live, the day after that two bombs exploded in Malaga (near where we're going) and the day after that the Spanair crashed on take off - Methinks Someone/thing could be sending me a message... How crazy does that sound "Sending me a message", I don't believe in a supreme being, a God or any such thing. Yet I choose the completely irrational and paradoxical position of now believing something I don't actually believe in and, moreover, assume he/she/it/them or they are actually sending me a message."

Statistically the safest form of Transport
Everyone hears this, but I'm just convinced people use the expression to stop them thinking about the inalienable facts that they are traveling over 500 miles per hour and more than 6 miles above the earth, in a tin-can built to a safety factor of 1.4, with thousands of moving and interconnected parts built and maintained by the lowest bidder. Though putting safety in context, aviation is getting safer - since the 50's the number of flights has increased over three times and the number of fatalities have been reduced more than five times.

They just don't belong up there...
If we were meant to fly we'd have wings. I know and understand the aerodynamics and lift/drag of an aerofoil, but look at them they are just too dammed big and heavy.

You've got to go sometime/When your numbers up it's up...
I'd rather it was not at 500 miles per hour, 6 miles above the earth etc. etc.

Just get drunk/drugs from the docs
Initially sounds like a good idea, however, if an accident does happen I'd rather have my wits about me to take full advantage of any survival or escape opportunities that present themselves. Being mortal drunk or sky high on valium, I guess, will just make it more likely that in an accident whatever transpires will be seen as fate and will be accepted without challenge or struggle. Nah, if it comes to it I'm going out with a fight...

Rhymes with Dying
Good f***ing point... But, it's all getting too silly now...

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