Monday, December 20, 2010

Airplane Nervousness

A few years ago (I couldn't tell you exactly when or why) I started to get the tiniest bit anxious when airplanes would land. Only in a very mild way - I would think about it every time the plane was landing and there'd be a bit of turbulence. This was ameliorated somewhat by a discussion with a former commercial pilot who I was sitting next to once on a plane. He said that everyone gets nervous about landings, but in reality takeoff is the more dangerous part. If something goes wrong with the mechanics during landing, the plane doesn't drop out of the sky, as it can glide a bit and still be landed safely. But on takeoff, there's a period where the speed of the plane is high enough that you can't stop before the end of the runway, but not high enough that you're airborne. If something happens THEN, that's when you're in a bit of trouble.

Anyway, I find that a good cure for the whole thing is to put yourself in the shoes of the guy with the exact opposite disposition - Johnny Deathwish, who secretly desperately wants to be in a plane crash.

Like must suck for that guy. Every time he goes up, he gets a bit excited with anticipation when you go through clouds and thinks get a bit wobbly. He gets even more excited when you're landing and it's windy. Will this finally be the time? And yet no, every single time the pilot lands safely. Even when he thought it might finally happen, no dice. That's because plane crashes are incredibly rare.

Thought about this way, it becomes apparent how safe the whole thing really is. You move from the salient 'what if the plane crashes' to the probabilistic 'suppose I were predicting plane crashes based on all the plane trips I've been in, including the bumpy ones. How likely are they, really?'.

Pity Johnny Deathwish. Every time he gets in a plane, he winds up disappointed.

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