Tuesday, January 19, 2016


A few months ago, I got hooked to watching air crash investigation videos on YouTube. Almost an hour-long each, these are fascinating videos recreated of airplane crashes, explaining what went wrong. It isn't a morbid fantasy, I am not into the emotional or social or economic aspect of a disaster of this magnitude. I am just fascinated by the science and technology of flying. I want to know how airplanes remain suspended in air, and what all could possibly go wrong. I have watched so many videos that I can theoretically fly planes now. Or write a book about flying planes. Cockpit voice recorder. Flight data recorder. Holding pattern. Pitot tubes. Lift. Stalling. The three components of an autopilot. TCAS. I know it all.

An Ethiopian airplane was hijacked and had to crash-land in the sea. A Helios flight had a sudden lack of oxygen due to which everyone went in a coma and the plane crashed after eventually running out of fuel. The Air France crash of 2008 when there were false pitot tube readings due to cold weather, and the pilots intuitively made nose-up inputs rather than puling the nose down, which led to a sea crash. The flight that crashed in the swamps of Everglades, and how it led to infections and gangrenes. A mid-air collision at right angle between a passenger and a cargo plane because one of the pilots was listening to the air traffic controller, and the other one to the airplane alerts, causing them both to change altitude simultaneously.

As a result, I am petrified of flying now. My heart just wouldn't calm down when I am in air. My fear has reached crazy proportions, because usually seated by the window side, I keep looking outside for signs of disaster. I try to distract myself with food, pointless movies, or a Mills & Boon kept handy with the interesting pages dog-eared. But neither good food, nor reading about sex can keep me distracted for long, and I go back to gluing my nose to the freezing double-pane windows, watching out for imminent signs of disaster.

The other day, they made us deplane after boarding, causing a 3 hour delay. One of the engines was giving funny test readings, and although the other engines were fine, the airline did not want to risk anything. While all the passengers cursed about the inconvenience of getting on and off and then on another plane, children shrieking and pillows flying and all, I was perhaps the only one who did a mental balle-balle, thanking God that the airplane did not take off. I was more than happy to wait for 3 hours to be able to get home safely. People tell me that the chances of dying in a road accident is far more than dying in a plane crash. I don't know what is it that bothers me about flying, that does not have the same effect on me about driving.

I will be flying in a few days, and it is needless to say that I have been hyperventilating and getting sleepless nights. It does not help much that I am also re-reading a great book by Mary Roach called Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. I realize that as I am ageing, I am turning out to be a pretty weird and eccentric person. In a few decades, I will turn out to be one of those irritable grannies like Maxine.


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