One good thing about flying is that it gets us somewhere faster, and much more safely.
Okay, the only good thing about flying is that it gets us somewhere faster, and much more safely.
That’s probably why we’re shocked when something goes wrong with a flight, at least a flight involving a U.S. carrier. We should be shocked: until this past Tuesday there hadn’t been a fatality since 2009, the night a commuter turboprop crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., killing 44 passengers and five crew members. That plane was piloted by an exhausted flight crew, both of whom made errors in judgment that even a neophyte home simulator pilot would know enough to avoid, dooming the DHC-8-400 and everyone aboard it.
Between then and this past Tuesday when that Southwest plane blew an engine, American carriers had been unblemished. Part of that record results from the FAA and tight government regulations on passengers and crew; part of it is the planes themselves. (It is ironic that a few months back President Trump took credit for said safety record when (1) seven of those years comprised the Obama administration and (2) he has a knee-jerk opposition to government regulatory procedures.)
Tuesday’s incident cost the life of Jennifer Riordan, an Arizona mother of two. There is no sugar-coating of the tragedy, and no denying that her family is viewing this incident through a much different prism. (I added the photo because we should remember she is not just a name.)
But the fact that there was one death and not 147 more underscores the other factor in America’s safety record: the skill of our pilots. Tuesday it was Tammie-Jo Shults who calmly guided a crippled plane down from 30,000 feet to a landing that most passengers described as ordinary. (It’s interesting to note that most of the survivors of the “Miracle on the Hudson” in 2009 had the same response to their river landing. Even that day, floating down the Hudson, some thought thy had arrived at an airport.
I’ve always been an aviation geek—still watch every plane approaching BDL—but even I weren’t, I’d find the chatter between the pilot and the air traffic controller fascinating. She could have been ordering pizza and the tower could have been asking “pickup or delivery?”—it was that calm. But it was also focused and cooperative: two professionals who most certainly had never met and under most circumstances never would, combining to save a planeload of people to whom they understood a shared responsibility.
There is little that makes us feel good these days, from the Starbucks debacle, to the police shooting of Stephon Clark, to the ongoing embarrassment of the Trump swamp: but when something positive does happen, even when the ending is far from perfect, we can exult a bit, knowing that, soon enough, the rest of TrumpAmerica will return us to the imbalance and chaos to which we have reluctantly grown accustomed.