This Week’s Losers: Transportation, Part 1

Well, that sums it up. It is a bad week for transportation. Asiana Flight 214 has a horrific massive crash landing over San Francisco International Airport’s runway. Canadians officials are still putting out fires from a run away train carrying crude oil, forcing 2000 people to evacuate.

Maybe it is because I travel often, especially on a variety of airlines, but I am completely glued to the coverage about Asiana. While I never flew Asiana, I want to point out the airline has won many accolades as a top airline. They led the industry in prohibiting smoking in flights, and being proactive in environmental measures, almost an oxymoronic concept in the airline business. Their awards come from many reputable travel magazines like Air Transport World (2009 Airline of the Year, one of the most prestigious titles), Skytrax (2010 Best Airline, 2011 and 2012 runner up after Qatar).

Many of us who fly often like to compare Boeing and Airbus. Personally, I like Boeing much more. While the likely cause is the superficial internal mountings, the rattling I sense from Airbus unnerves me. I feel Boeing is a much more solid plane..  sort of like the comparison between the heavier metal German cars and the lightweight Japanese models. Despite the issues with Boeing’s new line of 787s, the 777s are considered one of the best in the world with amazing state of the art technology on board that assist and even take over the pilot’s job. Including self-landing.

I want to stop for a minute to say I am neither a pilot or plane fanatic. I dread boarding planes unless I manage to upgrade myself. I have had to fly on small charter planes and I will gladly take a sleeping pill to not live through those flights again. Nor am I a safety fanatic. I don’t track safety records and numbers.. I don’t want to bother myself with such worries. So everything I share is what I consider laymen’s information, things any average passenger will encounter or read about.

So, all that said, it’s still too early to know what happened to Flight 214. It is especially easy to speculate based the released information about the pilot’s experience, and the video of the landing.

Between the background information for Asiana and Boeing.. I want to point out that commercial air travel is one of the safest forms of travel. I do concede that the plane crashes are much more catastrophic, especially aided by visual technology. I can see how not actually understanding the mechanics let alone being in control of a vehicle as one would driving, adds to the sense of powerlessness on the passenger’s part.

Think about this:

– About 50,000 planes fly each day all over the world- Those planes average 3 million passengers
– London Heathrow daily volume with a mere two run ways: 1200 movements
– Chicago O’Hare daily volume: 2400
– San Francisco daily volume: 1100

All those pilots, all those planes.. how often do you hear about incidents?

My heart goes out to the survivors, as many of them fight to live and more to recover.

My heart breaks for the pilots. The senior pilot’s information has been broadcasted the most. 10,000 hours of flight time, assuming an 8-hour shift, is average 1250 flights, likely more with shorter flights. Over 400 days of continuous flying. That’s an extremely experienced pilot and crew. One disastrous flight, and he and his crew may never fly again. Even if they can professionally, this cloud will forever be over their heads. How to live with that, will take such strength many of us never tested for.

I am more likely to be skittish going into a hotel room than to board a plane. I, for one, will continue to fly. I hope you all will, too.

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