So you've all heard about and seen the pictures of the US Airways Airbus that ditched in New York's Hudson River after running into a flock of Canadian terrorist geese. The pilots did a great job bringing the jet down on that big, long water runway, and the cabin crew did a terrific job of getting everyone out safely. They all did what they are trained to do. But how fortunate it was that this event happened in New York and not, oh, Atlanta, Georgia.
Why did the jet float? Well, there's this uncomfortable fact about airliners: They're nothing but big, empty aluminum beer cans. You're not riding in a tank. In fact, most airplanes don't have the crashworthiness of your average modern automobile. They float pretty good though!
I mean, no shoulder harnesses in airliners? The next time you click that flimsy seatbelt around your waist, give a thought about what that cell phone in the seatback ahead of you will taste like when your face rams into it in a crash. Sometimes I look up at that fresh-air vent in the overhead panel and think what a nice 1" diameter hole it will make in my skull if we ever hit some unexpected turbulence and I'm lifted out of my seat by the negative-G forces. Oh yes, it happens! And you'd better believe I keep my flimsy seat belt fastened at all times when I'm flying, whether the sign is turned on or not. You should too.
"Airline safety" is a myth. The safety of air travel comes solely through not crashing. Fortunately, they don't do it all that often. And sometimes emergencies work out okay, as in the case of the "Miracle on the Hudson!" (Can't you already see the made-for-TV movie?)
I didn't want this to turn into an indictment of airline travel. I'm just not crazy about flying on the airlines. In fact, I hate it - hate everything about it. Hate being in the back, not being in control. Hate the stupid (and unnecessary) "security" measures like having everyone remove their shoes, and leave their cuticle scissors behind (a potential weapon!). Oh, please. It just drives me nuts. In fact, if I can, I'd much rather drive.
But sometimes I don't have a choice. In a couple of weeks I'm flying out to Las Vegas for Matt's batchelor party - and I think we're taking US Airways. I hope a certain Chesley Sullenberger is our captain. Or somebody exactly like him. "Sully" was the captain of the plane in the second picture above.
We'll be flying out of Gulfport, Mississippi, which means we'll probably be taking off out over the Gulf of Mexico on departure. As we're boarding, I will resist the urge to ask the captain if he has a seaplane rating. All airline captains have probably heard that one a million times by now.