Wednesday 11 January 2012

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The Benefits of a Fear of Flying

I'm a logical man (stop laughing Lori). My mind tends to function in the realm of math and statistics, and for fun I like to figure out odds and probabilities of certain events occurring. I know, I'm just a barrel full of laughs at a party, but it kind of explains my Vegas fascination doesn't it? The fact is though, that if you want to persuade me of something, having numbers to back you up is very likely the way to go about it. Unless you're my wife. She doesn't need numbers.

This morning there's an article on Bing called "It's Never Been Safer to Fly". It talks about how the last ten years have been the safest in America's aviation history. It's chock full of numbers (which is good, since my wife didn't write it) explaining that the fatality rate has fallen to 2 people per every 100 million passengers, and that unless you're heading through Russia or Africa, there has never, in the history of flight, been a safer time to be a passenger on a commercial airplane.

I still don't really like to fly. It goes against every fibre of my being to feel this way considering all the data showing how safe it is, but there's something about flying that just seems to overrule my thought processes and leaves me on edge. Not a huge "We're going to crash!" kind of edge, but more towards the "What was that sound?" side of things. Noise cancelling headphones have vastly improved my enjoyment of flights, but I still jump a little every time I feel the landing gear lock into place.

Now if you've been reading along, I know what you're thinking. "Aren't you the guy who wanted to fly to Dallas for 15 minutes to maintain your elite status?" Why yes...yes I am. Sometimes it's simply a matter of doing what I need to do instead of what I want to do. I could stop flying so much, but I want the benefits (status). I could not go to work every day, but I want the benefits (getting paid). I could not do what my wife wants, but I want the benefits (you didn't really think I was going there did you?). In my world, the benefits outweigh the little bit of unease I feel every time we start our descent into a new city.

I'm pretty sure it looked like this
Of course, my discomfort isn't completely unwarranted. Back when I was younger, I was on a flight to Los Angeles that went through the jet stream of another plane while we were circling LAX waiting for clearance to land. The plane plummeted downwards for what must have been almost a half mile (I believe the technical measurement was 10-20 feet) and anyone not wearing their seat belt was pinned against the roof of the plane (One. I think one person bumped their head). People were screaming in fear (or it might have been just me) and were holding on to each other awaiting their fate (my seatmate was not amused). Fortunately our pilot wasn't fazed by the drop at all, maintaining perfect control throughout the ordeal, and we all continued on to land safely in Los Angeles, but I've pinpointed this near-death experience as the trigger point for my flying nervousness.

Bing can quote me as many statistics as it would like, but I'm never going to be perfectly at ease when flying. I'll keep getting on planes because I know that the odds are astronomically in my favor that I'll get there without any harm, but then again I'm also the guy who's convinced that he's going to win the lottery one day, and I think we're talking about an equivalent likelihood here. For now I'll just do my best to stay out of Russia and Africa, and if I ever really find myself getting nervous about flying again, I'll just get my wife to explain it to me. She doesn't need to quote the numbers, she just has to mention the benefits.