Friday, June 05, 2009

Jane Wendell - 2

Air France Flight 447 went missing in the Atlantic Ocean with 228 passengers and crew on board. Jane wondered what the passengers or the crew went through when that happened. Did they get to say their goodbyes to the loved ones at the airport before the plane took off? May be some of them were so lucky that they got to say a teary eyed goodbye in a warm embrace. May be some of them were flying home after a long lonely wait. There was a report of a young man on the flight who was heading back to France after attending his father’s funeral. Poor bastard…the irony…he spent his final days moping around for a loss that he didn’t have to bear for more than a few days. Or may be he hated his father and was glad that the old geezer finally kicked the bucket. How inappropriate of him, Jane thought. But Jane didn’t have all the facts to decide who was being inappropriate to whom.

Jane thought that a plane crash was one of the most horrific ways to die. But again, may be Jane didn’t have all the facts. There were reports of the plane losing cabin pressure and there were reports of no communication from the pilots. All the information was reported by the plane systems, or so the media led Jane to believe. Even the airplane systems didn’t seem to have the facts straight. There were contrary reports of the airspeed right before the crash. It was entirely plausible that the plane systems failed and that this in turn resulted in a sudden pressure drop. In such an event the definition of an ideal situation changes dramatically. Ideally, the oxygen masks should drop. The passengers and crew then have, depending on how fast the cabin pressure is plummeting, sometimes less than 15 seconds to put on the mask. Jane would never pay attention to the emergency instructions. Jane would think, much as most of the passengers on Air France Flight 447 probably thought, “What are the odds?”

And even if Jane would’ve paid attention, she could’ve never managed to put on the mask in less than 15 seconds. And would the odds be any better if panic and turbulence were added to the equation? Jane wouldn’t know. She was never any good with probability problems. But none of that would’ve mattered anyway.

If the cabin pressure had dropped suddenly, the passengers and crew would pass out. There would be no communication from the pilots. The media reports that there were no distress calls issued by the pilots. Jane could console herself by thinking that at least they didn’t suffer just like the Columbia crew on Feb 1, 2003.

Jane had once read somewhere that NASA gives the crew cyanide pills so that in the event of an imminent disaster the crew can choose to die a less painful death. She does not want to acknowledge that sometimes events can transpire rapidly and be completely out of ones control. That there are times when you run out of possibilities and choices to consider. In case of shuttle disasters, Jane clearly does not appreciate the gravity of the situation. Jane still believes that NASA provides instant death pills to every crew member.

Jane’s life is full of choices. Some of these choices are not even possibilities. But Jane doesn’t know that. Jane works very hard to keep it that way.

On a side note, although most if not all the passengers and the crew on Air France were born on different days and had different sun signs and the exact same planetary alignment as their counterparts on earth, only the ones on the plane met with the same fate.


Joy Forever said...

Don't really know what to say... just that this tragedy proves once more that when things go wrong, they tend to rapidly spin out of control and really offset all safety measures. I don't think it would have mattered much if the passengers did have time to put on their masks, as I read that the plane broke apart in mid-air. It also makes us realize that accidents like the one where the plane did a smooth belly landing on the Hudson earlier this year are extremely rare and, with all due respect to the pilot, are made possible more due to luck (sun signs of the passengers?) than anything else.

rags said...

Just to add to the Hudson river thingy, the pilot, in judicial review, said that for the landing to happen, 10-13 miracles had to happen. Too lazy to locate that newspaper report, though.