Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ignorance is Bliss

The sound the engines were making changed. Was it my imagination, or were they were slowing down? I glanced out my window to see only clouds. Were we descending?

I'm not a nervous flyer by any means. I actually love take-off, that wonderful adrenaline-inducing moment when the engines fire and the plane leaps forward, gaining speed before delicately lifting from the ground and soaring into the blue sky. It's the stuff of wonderment to me. The sheer physics of it are astounding.

Unfortunately, it was those physics of flight that were on my mind when flying back from Townsville on Sunday. Suddently, I was gripped by the fear that for some reason, the engines would fail and we would fall out of the air like a 300 tonne brick.

There's a strange misconception amoungst the populace, some sort of false story sold to us by tv and movies, that planes can glide. It's true, most big planes can suffer the loss of one or more engines, but when all of them fail, there's no steady descent in which the pilot has the luxury of picking out a handy field to make a crash landing in. Nope. Commercial planes are not in any way, shape or form aerodynamic. They do not glide. The only thing that propels them through the air is the fuckton of thrust being generated by those huge jet engines. No thrust, no forward momentum. No forward movement, no lift. No lift, DOWN WE GO.

I always scoff silently at the air hosties' safety demonstration. Because honestly, the chances of anyone surviving a crash landing over the ocean are practically none. You won't need the lifejacket, the whistle or the little light because the plane will disintegrate upon hitting the water. At the speed it'll be coming down, the physical forces involved will make the water like concrete.

What? I'm sorry, but this is the kind of stuff I think about. I was growing panicked, and suddenly my heart was hammering so hard I could feel the thud of the carotid artery in my neck. After a few minutes contemplating a sudden and horrible plunge to my death, my brain finally decided to throw me a figurative lifeline and pointed out I should look at the hosties. If they weren't worried, why should I be?

They were acting perfectly normal. I therefore concluded we weren't going to crash and calmed down. Statistically, I was more likely to die in a car crash driving to work than in a plane crash. Chill, Sarah, geez. Maybe ignorance is bliss.

Do you love or hate flying? Got any good stories?


  1. It's weird how those "What if …" moments can get the heart racing. I love flying too, mainly because it means I'm off on holidays. But I also love that show Air Crash Investigators. It's a bit nerve wracking, but also calming to know how planes are constantly improved. I just don't want it to be me in the plane that alerts the world to a major construction problem.

    1. Oh yes I watch too much Air Crash Investigations as well! Makes you realise how easy it is for something small to cause a disaster! But commercial airlines are so well maintained these days I'm told we shouldn't worry!

  2. That's exactly what I do Sarah. Look at the Flight Attendants and if they're unperturbed I relax a bit. A stiff drink helps too. I hope you're going to write a post about Townsville :)

    1. A good stiff drink if the nervous flyer's best friend ;) Absolutely I will be writing about our day trip to Magnetic Island soon!



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