4/11/2008

Flying takes a 'Lo' blow


Some things never change. The safety of flying is being scrutinized once more, so it seems appropriate to recycle this column published in the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail, 20 July 1987. Enjoy!

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Arguments for flying jumbo jets take a ‘Lo’ blow

By B. J. Trotter

My poor husband wants to take a European vacation, but our ’75 Caprice Classic won’t make it.

I once bought a waste-of-time paperback by Erica Jong because its title expressed my greatest phobia, “Fear of Flying.” The book, if I recall, was about sex and dirty toenails and never even mentioned airplanes.

Actually, it’s misleading to say I have a fear of flying. I first “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” at the age of four in a small plane piloted by my dad. I remember looking down with delight on ribbon-roads with crawling ant-cars. It’s those big, super, jumbo jets that scare me to death.

I love Cessnas and once ventured weekend flights with a friend who owned an Aerocommander. I even tried sky-diving, making five static-line jumps: at least with sky-diving you have a parachute! The only fatality was a favorite dress, ripped while I practiced PLFs off a table. (That’s “parachute landing falls.”)

Oh, I’ve heard all the reasons to fly the jumbos: “There’s nothing to it.” “You have a couple of martinis and watch a movie, and you’re there.” “Statistically, it’s safer than driving.”

Etc., etc., and when I finally work up the courage to even consider it, the news wires move yet another crash or near-miss story.

If this is less-than-comforting, there’s more. Add to the threat of terrorism and hijacking these recent headlines (ripped right from these pages): “Pilot Lands on Wrong Runway.” “Pilots Land at Wrong Airport.” “Pilot Says Air Safety ‘on the Brink of Crisis.’” “Senators Warn Airliners to Shape Up.” “N.C. Man Pleads Guilty to Firing at Airliner.”

Suddenly, the friendly skies don’t seem so friendly.

The topper came on June 30 (1987) when a 27-year veteran pilot, shortly after takeoff from Los Angeles International Airport, mistakenly cut off fuel to both engines of his craft. The plane glided from 1,500 feet to within 600 feet of the Pacific Ocean, and passengers warned to prepare for a crash went into mass hysteria.

It’s mass hysteria which separates the Cessnas from the big ones. What I really fear is not flying, but sharing that moment of reckoning with hundreds. One-on-one, it doesn’t seem so bad.

When the big ones go down, they go down as poet Walter Benton puts it: “Without a rain check or a parachute, a key to Heaven or a last long look.”

My friends are right. Flying has to beat long treks by car or bus. (Amtrak has its own problems.) Statistically, flying is safer than driving. But, I’m serious about this. So much so that in 1982, to avoid flying, I drove a necessary 1,000 miles from Plattville, Wisc., to Jackson, Miss., in 24 hours – without sleep! So, I offer one last excuse:

Our dear Grandma Trotter is a lovely, bright woman. She gave me a better argument for not flying than any when she soothingly advised: “Remember, our Lord said, ‘Lo, I am with you always.’”

(Column photo, 1987)

7 comments:

BBJ said...

BJ, I'm back from my trip. Trying to catch up on your blog. Loved this "old" flying column, and you are BEAUTIFUL!

Great piece about your uncle too. Wish I had several hours to read here . . .

Eowyn said...

BJ, that is a beautiful photo! There is a stature there of Bacall, but more lovely.

Flying anymore is like taking the bus. It's crowded, kind of dirty sometimes--especially the air in the cabin. Passengers have little diginty, no room and certainly no food. But there's no way around it. The airlines have got that right.

Do you know about the new baggage charges? Second bag may cost up to $200. Over 50#--a cost too. It was charted in an article on the Net that the uninformed traveler could pay up to something like $600 extra for showing up with an extra bag which was overweight and oversized. Think of the family cost.

The airlines are planning on a huge income from this.

You know, the funny thing is that this get what you can attitude is what we are looking at the USA of today.

Frodo Notcrazyus said...

Remember the character "Roz" on "Frasier." Her father was a TV weatherman in Philadelphia. He was an adventurous and talented guy, who died sky-diving. His 'chute didn't open.
Frodo has also never landed an airplane on an aircraft carrier. Those two things, he believes, are the only things he has never done.
Want to hear about the Eskimo woman he shot?

B.J. said...

Dear Frodopullingmyleg:

If you did, indeed, shoot an Eskimo woman, and it didn’t involve a camera, by all means we must hear about it.

With static line jumps, the parachute is attached to a line which opens it automatically. I never did a free fall.

Frodonevergivenastraightlinus said...

Sucked you in. There is an old story about a Texan who went to Alaska. While there, he was told that in Alaska one becomes a man only after drinking a fifth of whisky, making love to an Eskimo woman, and shooting a polar bear.

Jan said...

Jan swore she would never get on an airplane. Said, "If God meant us to fly he'da given us wings." However, her first flight was a 42 minute flight.

She was falling apart waiting to board the plane. A gentleman ask her, "Do you mind if I sit beside you on the plane?"

Her reply, "Not if you don't mind watching someone fall into a million pieces at her own feet."

He ordered a drink for both and talked to her the entire flight, pointing out places on the ground, areas and cities they were over etc.

Upon landing he said, "Now that wasn't so bad was it?"

It wasn't. She then learned he was an engineer for the airline and had given up a first class seat to sit beside her.

Thanks George, whereever you are.

Jan

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