Please Sir, May I Have Another (Plane)?
I have a wonderful friend named Pilot Bill. He used to fly for American Airlines, but now steers planes laden with packages. The man knows his aircraft and noises.
When Pilot Bill and I took a trip together years ago, we played the "What's That Sound?" game. He was able to explain every grunt, creak and burp the plane emitted. He also reassured me that the planes have so many back-up systems, there is no way we are going to fall from the sky. I settled back into my seat.
However, despite the tutorial, I have never felt 100 percent comfortable when my scheduled plane is delayed for technical reasons and the mechanics fix it on the spot. "You can do an oil change in less then 12 minutes, but can you repair a flap in that short amount of time?" I have always wondered: "What would happen if I told the flight crew, 'I'll catch the next ride, so please open the cabin door'?" Could they force me to stay on board? Or would I have to be abusive just to get thrown off?
On Sunday, passengers on an Air Berlin flight bound for Portugal petitioned to get the heck off that plane after the pilot noticed a problem with a gauge in the cockpit and the landing flaps. After the first discovery of a problem, the passengers were told to disembark and wait for the broken piece to be fixed. When they were given the green light to re-board, two refused. Then the problem arose again, and that's when the 170 passengers took over. Like concerned citizens issuing a referendum, they signed a petition to be let off and assigned a new plane. They preferred to wait 14 hours instead of taking a risk. They were no doubt spooked by the SpanAir crash on Aug. 20, which killed 154 people. But can you blame them?
I know we should have faith in the experts' decision and that we can't cry wolf at every little growl from the plane's belly. But when there are so many signs of trouble, shouldn't we have some say in our fate?
So, Pilot Bill, I completely trust your assessment on plane safety, but I might just start packing a pencil and sign-up sheet. You never know.
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Posted by: Andy | September 16, 2008 11:03 AM
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