I don’t fly well. Flying scares the hell out of me, in fact. But I fly a lot to give talks so I’ve had to live with it. At one point I decided to try and desensitize myself to my fear of flying by watching documentaries of plane crashes. My favorite series quickly became Mayday: Air Crash Investigations.
I didn’t wind up getting desensitized, but I did learn. I learned that every system in an airplane is redundant, meaning if one fails another will take its place. This means that a single failure can never bring down an airplane. I also learned that people generally survive plane crashes. Not only that, the way these episodes are structured is that the first half depicts the crash while the second half follows the investigators as they try to figure out what went wrong. This means I have gotten to learn many of the ways the airline industry has changed to make sure another crash of the type never happens again. All of this was good information that helped put me at ease while flying.
So I’ve had the new season playing on my other monitor while I’ve been working this week. The one that came on just now made me boggle. It followed the plight of NOAA42, a plane that was flown into Hurricane Hugo (the second category 5 hurricane in recorded history) packed with scientists and over ten million dollars of lab equipment to study the hurricane. The plane was flown in at 1500 feet where “the winds were strongest”.
That’s fucking commitment to science. I think I’d be less uncomfortable on a rocket into space. Anyway, they lost an engine in the hurricane and almost lost another engine on the same side, which would have been a death sentence.
Seriously, those people are ultimate badasses. How curious do you have to be about the nature of the universe before you’re willing to fly into a fucking hurricane?
This has nothing to do with religion or politics, but it interested me enough to share it. This fills me with new optimism about the human spirit. If you guys want some more amazing stories that arose out of airplane crashes, let me know and I’ll share.