In a couple of months I will be going on an Alaskan cruise. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we will have to fly to Vancouver, B.C., to begin the cruise. I’m excited, as this will be my first cruise. Alas, it will not be my first time flying.
When I was growing up my family traveled a lot, so flying was no big deal for me. And frankly, I did not think about how and why that huge thing we were in was up in the air. But the older I get, the less I want to get on an airplane to go anywhere. I should not have started reading about aircraft.
You see, some fifteen years ago, I made the mistake of reading about airline turbulence and what can happen when one is not wearing a seatbelt. This was around the time when airlines started asking passengers to keep their safety belts fastened even after the captain turned off the seatbelt sign. It was then that my OCD really started to kick in and I became obsessed with hurtling through the sky in a tube. (It shouldn’t surprise you that during this time I began to experience panic attacks.)
According to Aerospaceweb.org, a Boeing 777 has a typical cruise speed of about 560 mph (900 km/h) at an altitude of 35,000 ft. (10,675 m). That’s over six miles up, folks.
Now, I know that it is common knowledge that flying is much safer than riding in an automobile (which on I-285 can be a real death wish), but still.
Recently, I read Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival by Laurence Gonzales, and I have learned that yes, it IS possible to survive an airplane crash. So now, I shall choose to meditate on my “Brace, Brace, Brace” position (this is what the flight attendants called out to remind the passengers what to do just prior to when the plane landed -er- crashed in that Iowa cornfield in the summer of 1989). Miraculously, 184 of 296 passengers and crew lived.
A miracle because:
“…the captain has told us that we have lost all our hydraulics.” (According to a flight attendant informing another United pilot onboard.)
“He stared at her for a minute…. He knew that wasn’t possible. DC-10s must have hydraulics to fly them. Period.”
But the aircraft had lost its hydraulics. And according to the pilot:
“…The plane was traveling northeast at thirty-seven thousand feet. Just east of the Cherokee airport, the fan on the number two engine blew apart, cutting hydraulic lines and disabling flight controls.”
“Having hydraulic fluid in the lines is a necessary condition of flight in a DC-10. After a complete loss of hydraulic power, the plane would have no steering. It would roll over and accelerate toward the earth, reaching speeds high enough to tear off the wings and tail before the fuselage plowed into the ground. Or it might enter into an uncontrollable flutter, falling like a leaf all the way to the earth, to pancake in and burst into flames.”
And yet the pilots of this aircraft managed to steer and careen, in circles, and somehow lower the 185-ton behemoth. You can see the wild flight in the diagram below.
Evidently, I’m not the only one obsessed. The author of this book has written other books about surviving, the following which are available at DCPL:
Actually… I’ve just been thinking…wouldn’t the view be just gorgeous to Vancouver on Amtrak…or Greyhound?