Saturday, October 5, 2013


It's no secret to those who know me that I don't like flying in airplanes.
While I do fly on a fairly regular basis, each trip requires on my part a process of letting go, of reaching the point on my flight departure date that I have made peace with the fact that my plane will crash, and when it doesn't, I am happily suprised.

I do understand that in its simplest terms that airplanes are able to fly due to two primary principles that contribute to the creation of lift, which is what makes flight possible. Those two principles are Bernoulli's Principle and Newton's Third Law. Let's break it down and look at each principle individually.

Bernoulli's Principle

By definition, Bernoulli's Principle states:

For an inviscid flow, an increase in the speed of the fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure.
From a practical standpoint, this basically means that as a fluid (air, water, etc) moves faster, it's internal pressure decreases.

But how does this help an airplane create lift?

Basically, the shaping of the wing "fools" the air around it into thinking it is a long rotation cylinder, and forces the air to travel faster over the top of the wing than that of the bottom. 

And according to Bernoulli's Principle, faster moving air = lower pressure. If we have lower pressure on top of the wing than we do on the bottom of the wing, we now have an inequality of pressures acting on the wing. There is more pressure pushing up on the bottom of the wing than there is on the top pushing down, which means we now have a total net force pushing up and we have lift.

Newton's 3rd Law 

Newton's 3rd Law is defined as: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.

Airplane wings are fixed onto the airframe of the plane at a slight angle. It may not be easy to see for the untrained eye, but upon a close examination of an wing's attachment point to the body of a plane, one will see a slight angle.

This angle creates a deflection of air downward. As air hits the underside of the wing, even in straight-and-level cruise flight, it is forced downward. And according to Newton's 3rd Law, the forcing of the air downward causes an equal and opposite upward force on the wing, thus contributing to the creation of lift.

Makes sense. So what's the big deal about flying?

Statistics show (Click Here) that flying is one of the safest things that you can do.

If you are going to worry about dying, there are many more probable ways to die than on a commercial jet. 

Take a look at the chart below, which shows the chance of fatalities on a commercial flight compared to other causes of death in the United States.

Notice that you are more likely to die from a bee sting than from a commercial flight. The number one killer in the United States is cardiovascular disease, with about eight hundred and eighty-five thousand deaths per year. Each of us has about a fifty percent (50%) chance of dying of cardiovascular disease.  

Whenever we fly, we have a one one-hundred-thousandth of one percent (.000014%) chance of dying!

Odds of Death
  • Cardiovascular disease: 1 in 2
  • Smoking (by/before age 35): 1 in 600
  • Car trip, coast-to-coast: 1 in 14,000
  • Bicycle accident: 1 in 88,000
  • Tornado: 1 in 450,000
  • Train, coast-to-coast: 1 in 1,000,000
  • Lightning: 1 in 1.9 million
  • Bee sting: 1 in 5.5 million
  • U.S. commercial jet airline: 1 in 7 million
Sources: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley

Let me say, that all of the above sounds great, reads wonderful, and seems like a no brainer, but it does not help make better my dislike of flying.

I hate flying and these statistics do nothing to change my feelings, Sure, you can walk out the door of your house and a piano can fall on your head, or lightning can strike you on a clear, sunny day. Life is one big crap shoot, but there is just something about airplanes that gives me the creeps.

Let's start with the obvious point. Nobody can be unaware that airplanes at 30,000 feet plus high do not always come gracefully and gently into land when something goes wrong. I know, cars are much more dangerous at 55 mph, but they seem a lot more natural than airplanes.

In real life this doesn't make any sense, I know the ugly true facts about the dangers of cars, those who drive them, Driving Under The Influence of Drugs (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). I really know what can and does horrifically happen much more frequently with cars and people than with airplanes.

Today's Blog post is not about what what I should know, but one of those things we all have within ourselves that seems to make no sense, and why I can't seem to get rid of it.

If something goes wrong with an airplane, your options are severely limited. All the time before the flight you have to think about the prospect of actually getting on the airplane. I am not good with heights. I also expect to be in control somewhat of my ability to travel, while I am moving in space. I enjoy checking the oil, tire pressures, kicking the tires, filling the gas tank, doing the pre-trip maintenance check up, things that I am able to do with a car. It gives me a sense of feeling comfortable, a false sense for sure, but it works.

In an airplane everything is done to you in an airplane. You have to deal with the idiots at security and all of their self importance as they literally strip you bare. 

Once on the airplane, you're imprisoned with all your fears. You are told where to sit, when you must strap yourself in, which receptacle you may be sick, and what to eat and drink. You can't get out, or wind down the window, and half the time you don't even know what time zone you're in. If you decide to sing to yourself, the person in the next seat will probably elbow you in the ribs; and if your waking hours clash with what is supposedly a night time flight, you may feel obliged not to speak for ages.

And then, when you've finally landed safely, and may have to deal with the fact that your luggage has gone to another continent, you have a miserable time at your destination, thinking about how you've got to do it all again just to come home.
                        LEAVING ON A JET PLANE-JOHN DENVER

Why this great, innocent song, you ask? Because the lyrics say that the guy is leaving on a jet plane and he doesn’t know when he’ll be back again. Probably because he’s dead.

In the case of John Denver, he was ultimately killed flying an airplane he owned, not exactly reassuring.

So, yes I hate to fly, but I do fly often, and am a reasonably "good flyer" because as I previously stated I have  already come to terms with everything that can go wrong on the flight. In essence, I have relinquished control to whatever, whomever controls that which we have absolutely no input as to its outcome.

Then there are the things that "they" don't want you to know.

Pilots falling asleep on the job (click here) is far more common than you might expect. In one British Airline Pilots Association’s survey of 500 commercial pilots, 56 percent admitted to having fallen asleep on the flight deck.  
Twenty-nine percent had woken up to find the other pilot asleep. 

Eighty-four percent said they believed their abilities had been compromised by tiredness in the past six months. While this might seem like unacceptable behavior, it is also very common. 

Who can ever forget the two Northwest Airlines pilots (now part of Delta Airlines) flying a jet with 144 passengers that missed its destination (Click Here) of Minneapolis, Minnesota by 150 miles on October 21, 2009.

The jet flew into Wisconsin, about 150 miles past Minneapolis, before turning back to land.

Air traffic controllers tried frantically to reach them, pilot Richard Cole would not say just what it was that led to them to forget to land Flight 188."We were not asleep; we were not having an argument; we were not having a fight," Cole told the AP.

Air traffic controllers and pilots tried for more than an hour to contact Cole and the flight's captain, Timothy B. Cheney, of Gig Harbor, Washington state, using radio, cell phone and data messages.

On the ground, concerned officials alerted National Guard jets to prepare to chase the airliner from two locations, though none of the military planes left the runway.

As the plane flew at an altitude of 37,000 feet, a flight attendant finally realizing that the trip was taking too long, called the cockpit on the jet's intercom system to ask when it would arrive, the NTSB said. 

Capt. Timothy Cheney, 53, told investigators that only then did he look at his cockpit display and realize he had flown past Minneapolis (surely it was at that moment he woke up from his deep sleep when the flight attendant used the intercom).

Aviation safety experts and other pilots were deeply skeptical they could have become so distracted that they forgot to land an airplane carrying 144 passengers. The most likely possibility, they said, is that both pilots simply fell asleep somewhere along their route from San Diego.

The many safety checks built into the aviation system to prevent incidents like this one or to correct them quickly, apparently were ineffective until the very end.

Not only couldn't air traffic controllers and other pilots raise the Northwest pilots for an hour, but the airline's dispatcher should have been trying to reach them as well. The three flight attendants on board should have questioned why there were no preparations for landing being made. Brightly lit cockpit displays/alarms should have warned the pilots it was time to land.

Here in the U.S., the FAA does not legally allow pilots to nap in the cockpit, but they have acknowledged they understand the value of catching a cat nap. In fact, a NASA/FAA study demonstrated the effectiveness of a brief in-flight nap in improving subsequent alertness and performance. According to the study, “a planned brief in-flight nap would be an operational strategy that directly reduces the physiological sleepiness engendered by flight operations.”

One pilot even acknowledged that cat naps are quite common.

"It’s not legal, but as long as you don’t do something wrong—like overshoot your landing—it’s actually safer. You can look at the other guy and say if you need 10 minutes….it really brings you back to life."
Oh, in case, you think that the airplanes gas tanks are fully filled so it could fly safely beyond it's destination, there is something else happening now instead to wake you up:

You do remember my Blog post about Ryanair Airlines  titled "I GOT TO PEE" where they were charging for the use of using the toilet on their airplanes, among other bizarre details about airlines- Click Here)

Guess what-Airlines don't want you to know- That they Are Skimping on Fuel

Airline cost-cutting measures are getting extreme. Gasoline for cars is expensive, but jet fuel is extremely costly. Some airlines are reportedly flying with less than 
recommended fuel levels in an effort to save money, according to a scary report (Click Here) by Spanish safety investigators. The report focuses on budget airline Ryanair, which is no stranger to cutting corners. Take this case (Click Here), in which the airline instructed its pilots to fly slower in order to save fuel.

Your Plane Is Filthy

With planes flying on tighter schedules than ever before, there's often no time for cleaning before a flight is turned around for the next group of passengers. Since cold and influenza viruses can live for days on surfaces, planes can become germ hotbeds. 

Watch out for seat pockets (where sick passengers may stash dirty tissues), tray tables (a study found that 60 percent of tray tables tested harbored the "superbug" MRSA), and airplane blankets (which are only washed every five to 30 days, according to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal). Pack antibacterial wipes and hope for the best.

I won't even get into the pilots who fly stoned on drugs and or alcohol. I know there are all types of random, sophisticated drug testing done today that would prevent this. I am sure it works efficiently and is nothing to be concerned about, sure, just like all the backup systems that were in place, but didn't work, which were designed to wake up the two Northwest Airline pilots.

Here's to safe traveling! 

                                    IS IT THIS- UP UP AND AWAY?