By Roger Currie
I have not been much of a traveller in recent years, and I can’t say I miss it all that much. My last flight on an airplane was almost four years ago, and I won’t be in a hurry to do it again, unless I win the lottery and can travel first class. The past couple of weeks have dramatically shown us once more that traveling by air involves putting your life and safety in the hands of total strangers.
How can you possibly plan a trip in such a way to avoid what happened to the 150 people aboard that German Airbus that crashed in the French Alps? What can possibly be the chances of having a young co-pilot with mental problems who decides to take everyone with him when he ends his troubled life?
Less than one week later, the spotlight shifts to Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The winter from hell was continuing there with heavy snow and strong crosswinds as an Air Canada flight came in, carrying 133 passengers, some of them in shorts and sandals, returning from Florida. The pilot managed to crash land, 1,100 feet short of the runway, and he hit the ground sooner than he expected.
Aren’t these machines supposed to land themselves safely by now with all the magic of technology? In what can only be regarded as a miracle of some sort, the Halifax passengers and crew are all alive and in one piece today. They had to stand on the ground in the snow for almost an hour, but it was a small piece to pay for being alive, and going home to their loved ones.
None of this should be taken as concluding that air travel is not safe. Indeed, given the millions of people who fly every year, the record of safety should be very comforting and reassuring. But when things go wrong, there is rarely a second chance to get it right.
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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.