Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

28 January 2009

Air Travel and the Helicopter Pilot

Two pictures from the interweb that I found amusing.

Or alternatively...

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.


Hal Johnson said...

"All airline captains have probably heard that one a million times by now."

Yeah, but I bet you'll have a hard time biting your tongue anyway." Heck, I would.

I'm glad to see you mention the flight attendants. Sully deserves every bit of praise he's had heaped upon him, but that cabin crew had one heck of a lot to do with the outcome as well.

Bob Barbanes said...

It's unfortunate that our society has become one in which we so desperately need heros. We look at every little event and proclaim that so-and-so is a hero. You're a hero, I'm a hero, hell everygoddambody is a hero! I'm telling ya... Ahh, it's a subject for a whole 'nother post.

But like you say, Hal, it's not like Sully doesn't deserve the accolades. He did a masterful job of gliding that big plane to a safe landing - on very short notice - something he's probably never even done in the simulator! One can imagine those frantic moments in the cockpit as those engines were winding down, and Sully and his trusty copilot struggled to properly assess the situation and decide what to do. And then do it, of course. "Are the engines failing completely? Do we have *any* power at all? Can we bring 'er back around and make LaGuardia? Teterboro? Newark? Why can't this be happening to Barbanes instead of me?! Why oh why did I wear my frickin' new shoes??" But seriously, the decision to put it in the Hudson must've been tough. Listening to the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder should be very interesting!

(In fact, I wrote up a little "humorous" parody of what might have gone on in that cockpit and posted it on one of our helicopter websites. Not surprisingly, it wasn't universally well-received. Feh- some people just have no sense of humor...and there is that possibility that that "some people" just might be me!)

Credit must also be given to the flight attendants in what must have been a chaotic situation. Passengers talked about how calm the subsequent evacuation went. But I wonder. In one videotape I've seen of the landing, no sooner does the jet splash to a stop than *both* overwing emergency exits pop off and passengers start scrambling out onto the wing like it's gonna blow! Hoo-man! Doesn't take much imagination to figure out what was going on in that cabin. "GET OUT! GET OUT! EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF! AAAAHHHHHH!" And that was just the copilot, I'd bet! Thank God nobody got stampeded to death like a Walmart shopper at a Christmas sale.

No, seriously again, everyone involved in that did a fantastic job - even those great boat skippers on the river who responded so quickly.

"Hey Vito, lookitdat, dere's a plane landing on the rivva!"

"Bruno, whaddya, shittin' me?"

"No, LOOK!"

"What the... SonovaBITCH!!...CAST OFF! WE'RE GOING OUT THERE!"

You've got to love New Yawkers, even the ones from New Jursuh.

The reason I can joke about now it is because it turned out so well.

We like hearing about incidents that have such a good outcome. The sad reality is, they don't happen all that often.

Redlefty said...

Thanks a lot... Jamie and I are flying tomorrow...

Jared Young said...

Those pictures made me chuckle. I'm just glad it's something we can joke about now. It could have been much worse and as you said, the pilot and crew did a splendid job.

I think it's extremely sad that in a situation and outcome like this people are suing. I mean $5,000 for a broken nose? Come on people. You already received $5,000 for your personal belongings which I'm sure was more double what most people lost.

Although it's sad, I'm a bit surprised it took them this long to come forward with the lawsuits. I guess with freedom and rights comes abuse. It's just unfortunate that some people think that way.

Hal Johnson said...

Hey, didn't I hear that Sully has a glider rating? If so, that could have had a bearing on the outcome as well.

Bob said...

The hero stuff does get a little out of hand but if I had been on that plane he would be my hero too.