Just when the fear-of-flying hysteria couldn’t get worse it did. How does this affect GA? The Germanwings tragedy is high on everyone’s mind right now and Talk TV is trying to assess the mental health of pilots while messing up everyone else’s with their inane commentary. In my prior life overseeing nuclear weapons (which my friends acknowledge is a scary thought itself) there was a simple solution: The no-lone-zone, two-officer policy made it somewhat difficult to start WWIII on a whim. An adoption of that concept and perhaps a one-time user code that allows pilots leaving the cockpit reentry privileges might resolve all this without subjecting us all to Rorschach tests.
But maybe you could use a laugh about now.
There’s a travel site (that shall remain unidentified so their ad count won’t get any higher) that compiled a “Fear of Flying” list of things the flight crew will never tell you. This is a travel site that depends on people to fly to places, most of which aren’t accessible by oxcart, llama, or whatever other means they think we should be using to cover long distances!!! So let the stupidity begin. (I promise to get back to serious safety in the next blog.)
This does make GA travel look much more inviting—but perhaps I’m a bit prejudiced:
- Germs—did you know there are germs from the prior occupants on airliners? Fact: The armrests, tray tables, and seat pockets don’t get wiped down except in the evenings and perhaps not to surgical standards. Think of movie theaters, restaurants, and hotel rooms. It’s shocking that the world is not a sterile environment, but most people do reasonably well with some basic precautions.
- Pilots are unnecessary and the aircraft can do everything themselves. The only reason for a crew (according to the authors) is that, “Airlines continue to allow the pilots the control just to make them feel important.” I never thought of airline management as being that benevolent! There may ultimately be a shred of truth to this someday, but we’re not close to that yet.
- Rapid decompression—where one of the “tiny doors” (over-the-wing exits) blows out and you know what happens next: “The aircraft slowly disintegrates.” Not aware that it’s ever happened. It’s a good idea to keep the seatbelt fastened for a variety of reasons, but getting sucked out of the aircraft is really low on the list. They go on to say that the oxygen supply only last 15 minutes, which is more than enough to get to breathable altitudes, but the crew doesn’t tell you that either. We’re also not informed that fuel supply is finite or that the biffy holding tanks have limited capacity well beyond their planned usage! Ramp holds are not included.
- Pilots don’t eat airline food because it might make them sick. More likely to be psychological discomfort as opposed to gastrointestinal, but not many airlines serve meals these days. There are more likely food-borne illnesses from airport fare that could affect a crew but that doesn’t fit the editorial premise. Crews may flip a coin to see who gets steak and who eats tofu on long distance flights so they aren’t exposed to the same entrée, but it’s all airline food to my knowledge.
- The “little black boxes,” which are actually orange, are not “totally indestructible.” Who knew? Why not build the entire aircraft like a black box, the inquisitive journalists wanted to know? But they sensibly acknowledge it would be too heavy to fly!
- Climate change is causing additional turbulence and subsequent risk to aircraft—an interesting observation but no evidence cited. (Note, this is not a climate change discussion.)
- Being on the ground is not perfectly safe because of possible collision. I’ll take my chances any day on our runways and taxiways versus the highways.
- Any finally—the prepackaged recycled headset that was cleaned by “bored airline employees” may expose your ears to all sorts of nasty things. Wondered if that was sponsored by Bose, Sony, or Dr. Dre?
GA, despite the fact we are more weather dependent has some real positives:
- There’s always a window seat with a fabulous view! The tiny door will not blow out on non-pressurized aircraft, although it may open if not closed properly.
- You’ll never be late for a flight and can depart early or late, depending on your schedule.
- Chances are you’ll have much more legroom.
- Luggage generally gets to the planned destination and, although there may be a limit, there’s never a charge for bags.
- The flight will be direct to your destination except for ATC-induced perturbations, but the connecting flight—if any—will always wait.
- There’s no question who’s on the aircraft and what they are carrying, and no invasive search or long wait prior to boarding.
- The food is of our choosing, as is the entertainment—and best of all, NO prepackaged headsets!
- The company may be better but that’s a judgment call.
Obviously there are some downsides and our passengers should be properly informed. The risk is higher than the airlines but it can be well managed, if we are inclined to do so.