A McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft which operated as Air Algerie flight 5017 crashed in Mali on Thursday, July 24, 2014 — and none of the 110 passengers and six crew members survived
The crash of an ATR72 aircraft which operated as TransAsia Airways flight 222 in Taiwan on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 in inclement weather caused by a typhoon, carrying 54 passengers and four members of the flight crew — none of whom reportedly survived
Ironically, the number of fatal accidents for 2014 was 21 — which is a record low number that translates into one fatal incident for every 1.3 million flights — resulting in 986 fatalities, according to the article from AirlineRatings.com, which puts the safety aspect into perspective. “However, the world’s airlines carried a record 3.3 billion passengers on 27 million flights.”
The article concludes with “flashback 50 years and there were a staggering 87 crashes killing 1,597 when airlines carried only 141 million passengers — 5 per cent of today’s number.”
I am not one of those people who fears flying as a passenger aboard an airplane – regardless of accidents or acts of terrorism. As I stated here, I would have no problem watching an airline disaster movie during flight…
…and in fact, the following paragraph is part of what I stated on the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks of the United States which occurred on September 11, 2001:
“All I wanted to do on September 11, 2001 was to find the tallest building and get to the top of it, or fly on an airplane as a passenger. I wanted to shout to the adversaries that if they wanted a war, bring it on, for they will be sorry. I wanted to show those low-life terrorists that they don’t scare me, that our country will only be stronger, and that the United States will be better than ever despite their attempts to destroy it.”
Sure, we can say how dangerous air travel has become and cower, not wanting to travel. We can mitigate our risks in our attempts to stay alive as long as possible. Let us be as safe as we can so that we can enjoy life.
Sorry. I don’t buy that. Not for a second.
I participated in what is known as Road Warrior Training at the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines — about which I briefly wrote here. I have seen first-hand the rigorous training flight attendants go through for our safety. I have also toured the Technical Operations Center of Delta Air Lines on several occasions; and their standards are strict and rigorous enough to put your mind at ease about the precautions they take in the name of safety. Moreover, it is world renowned in that it services and repairs the aircraft of other airlines and the United States federal government in addition to the ones owned by Delta Air Lines
It is easy to get all caught up in the sensationalist media hoopla surrounding incidents which cause the deaths of hundreds of people all at once — but the incidents must be viewed realistically. They were not caused by blatant carelessness or purposeful negligence — although it can be argued that a missile attack on a supposedly unintended target can certainly qualify. Unusual and atypical circumstances were the causes which resulted in the tragic accidents listed above. Even terrorist attacks are not considered ordinary in most places on our planet; and where they may be considered part of the norm, you may want to exercise greater caution if you do not intend to outright avoid those places altogether. I visited Beirut several years ago and would have no problem visiting Israel — despite the aforementioned prohibition imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States, which has since been rescinded.
While it is important to not be foolish — I personally would not jump out of an airplane at 35,000 feet without a parachute or peek into the mouth of a hungry wild lion — travel is all about taking risks. Every time you walk out of the door of your home, you place yourself at risk — without even mentioning all of the potential risks that exist inside your home. I will bet that there were more fatal accidents on the roads and highways near your home since January 1, 2014 than which occurred in the air involving commercial aircraft in the same time period; and I will bet that more people died in motor vehicles in your country in a year than in airplane crashes — yet you still step into your vehicle to travel from one place to another.
I could cite statistics all day long — but that is not the point.
Travel is about experiencing different cultures; meeting new people; tasting foods which are new to you; and experiencing activities which you have never done before — all of which can be risky in one sense or another. Travel is not about repeating the same habits; eating the same foods; and “sterilizing” the experience to the point of being mundane, predictable — and “safe.”
Think about it. Which trip report sounds more exciting to you: one which the person experienced caviar and champagne in the lap of luxury — or one where the person tells you how he or she narrowly escaped a situation considered potentially dangerous?
Without going into details, I remember one time I was photographing an outdoor market in Abidjan — the capital city of Côte d’Ivoire — while doing everything I can to ensure that I respect the privacy of people by not taking their pictures. A local man suddenly grabbed my arm and started incessantly yelling at me angrily in a native language I could not understand; and he would not let go of my arm, which he gripped firmly and tightly. It was initially frightening when a crowd of local people started gathering around us — but then I noticed that the looks on their faces were more of curiosity and initial confusion than that of anger. I kept trying to explain in French that I was not taking pictures of people; but rather of the market — but to no avail. Finally, several men wrested the hand of the man from my arm, took him over to the side and eventually calmed him down before the crowd dispersed.
That was a scary moment in my life — but what a story to tell!
I am not advocating that you should drop a sedentary lifestyle to instantly become a thrill-seeker. What I am saying is that there really is nothing to fear — and that with risk comes excitement, adventure and intrigue. What terrorists hope to do more than kill people — seemingly randomly — is to instill fear in people; and the reaction supposedly displayed by your wife is exactly what terrorists want — even if they are not responsible for the source of that fear. Just take the proper precautions when you travel, knowing that there are always risks involved — and know that despite the recent incidents through which no one survived, commercial air travel is still one of the safest methods of travel in the world…
…so sit back, relax — and enjoy your flight. May your travels be packed with plenty of excitement where you will experience reactions of envy every time you tell your travel stories to others — but may you travel safely in the process; and never be afraid to take flight.
I will not be afraid to travel on an airplane, as it is still one of the safest methods of transportation…