Dying in Bliss

Alas Air France 447. It’s looking like we’ll never get to know what happened. What with the whole black-box-at-the-bottom-of-the-ocean thing.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a plane-crash, well, “obsession” is probably a fair word. I find that a big part of this is the wanting to know what happened. I can’t help but envision those final moments. What was it like for the passengers? Were they sleeping when the plane hit the ocean? Had they already vaporized before that?

However, I’m finding that knowing doesn’t provide full satisfaction either. In fact, knowing too much can be a real detriment to enjoying life. I work on tap water — I know what I’m talking about here. Sometimes the illusion of safety is what gets you on the plane in the first place, and in the 211th place also. Which is why I’m kind of sorry that I read the cockpit recorder transcript from Colgan Flight 3407. You know the one, the turboprop plane that iced up and fell from the sky like a big rock onto someone’s house in Buffalo, NY.

The kind of plane I fly on all the time between Denver and Laramie, through blizzards, etc.

You trust in your pilots. You have to. And you make certain assumptions in that trust: that they’re not exhausted, that they’re well trained, that they know what they’re doing.

You can read the whole transcript of course. I confess I skimmed. The interesting part is at the end, of course.

Which is also the really scary part. For example:

“I’ve never seen deicing conditions. I’ve never deiced. I’ve never seen any–I’ve never experienced any of that. I don’t want to experience that and make those kinds of calls. You know, I’d’ve freaked out. I’d’ve like seen this much ice and thought oh my gosh we were going to crash.”

That was from the young co-pilot who was only making $16K and had to still live with her parents, commuting from Seattle.

The pilot has asked her to see if there’s ice on her side of the plane, too. He talks about being a Florida guy, how all his flying hours are around the Phoenix area, how he’d like more flying time in the Northeast before he upgrades to a bigger plane. He does the wrong thing when the plane stalls.

One of the worst parts is the top of page 55, where they reel of the standard spiel about cell phones, seat backs and tray tables. Meanwhile the pilots are saying to each other “son of a gun, look at all that ice — wonder why we’re not crashing?”

Not that any of the passengers could have done anything. Except trust that their pilots have the knowledge to take care of everyone on the plane.

Sometimes knowledge is power. No matter unblissful it might be to know.

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