Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"HOWE" TO TRAVEL SAFE

by K.J. Howe

Happy holidays!  Please know how much we at Rogue Women Writers appreciate your kind support of our blog and books, and we'll continue to work hard to bring you quality content.  With the holidays fast approaching, many people will be traveling to visit family and friends, or perhaps jet somewhere abroad.  Air travel is usually the most efficient form of transit.

Are you uncomfortable flying?  My character Thea Paris certainly isn't an avid fan, but the latest facts about airplane safety do give her serious comfort.  Today, I'm hoping to offer you a little peace of mind if you have an upcoming flight.

Why Flying Is Safer than Ever

When it comes to safety, no other mode of transport has researched and incorporated more about what we know about the fallibility of both humans and machines.  Believe it or not, soaring through the air at 500mph six miles above the ground is less likely to result in your demise than any other form of travel.  Every decision--from the seats used to the altitude of the flight--has been confirmed only after careful consideration of its impact on safety.  A few facts will lesson your concerns:

Design:  Airplanes have flown almost a billion hours in the last 50 years.  That's right, a billion hours.   And what makes this instrumental for safety is that there is a meticulous recordkeeping process in aviation that provides experts with critical data, and this information helps them improve the design of airplanes and their engines.

Technology:  The mechanical controls of yesteryear are now being replaced by electronic ones.  These new fly-by-wire planes include the Boeing 777 and 787, as well as the Airbus A330, A340, and A380.  Pilots are now information managers, and technology plays a key role on the flight deck.  Those old movies where pilots are muscling the controls trying to save the day are dissipating.  Instead, satellite global positioning, advanced displays, and telecommunications offer a level of flight precision never seen before.

Back in the 50s and 60s, fatal accidents happened once in every 200,000 flights.  Now the record has improved tenfold, with fatal accidents happening less than once in every two million flights.  And these gadgets--especially the ones that warn pilots about approaching terrain or potential conflicts with other airplanes--have a huge impact on safety.

Pilots:  Today, more than ever, there is intensive training for pilots.  Remember that incredible moment when Captain "Sully" Sullenberger put US Airways Flight 1549 down safely in New York's Hudson River?  Sully attributes his incredible feat to a lifetime of flying, as well as preparation, anticipation, and focus.  The more hours a pilot has in the air, and the better his training, the higher chance you have of surviving an in-air mishap.

Airlines have stringent standards for pilots, and top-level training.  The students start with small planes to build experience and slowly graduate to managing multiple streams of data and larger planes.  Airlines also look for pilots with good communication skills, leadership potential, the ability to work as part of a team, and low risk-taking behaviour.  Good to know!

Cockpits:  Once you have the right pilots, you need to make sure their work environment is ideal for safety and comfort.  The flight controls and displays are compact, multipurpose, and well tested to make sure they provide all the key information.  They must also be easy to see and operate.  Flight-deck engineers have spent hours upon hours creating the best controls, lights, switches, and other features, visible in all light conditions.  Engineers want to make sure everything inside the cockpit is comfortable, ergonomic, and easy to read for the pilots.

Cabin:  Although most of us find the insides of planes a little too compact, a great deal of attention has been given to passenger cabins.  All the seats meet rigid standards for durability and head-impact protection.  A modern airliner seat can withstand 16gs!  And the fabrics are flame retardant and self-extinguishing, unable to emit toxic smoke.  Even the items you find in the seat backs are tested to make sure they are not lethal.  Emergency lighting is instantaneous if there is a fire, making it easier to reach the exits.

Air Traffic Control:  Technology has given an almost Star Wars quality to the behind-the-scenes protection of managing the millions of departures every year.  Planes are guided by GPS, flying self-programmed routes, communicating with each other and the ground.  Challenging terrain, low visibility, bad weather, and other hazards will no longer cause chaos.  By linking onboard and on-the-ground systems, experts have created "highways in the sky" where no one veers out of their lane.

Airport control has also improved, offering movement-detection monitors showing every vehicle on every runway, taxiway, and terminal gate.  And if you still have trepidation?  A key fact to remember:  most commercial aviation accidents are not fatal.  Planes lose altitude, landings are botched, planes slide off runways, but these events rarely cause fatalities.  You are NINETEEN times safer in a plane than in a car.  On your next flight, sit back, enjoy a good movie or a great book, and let yourself relax!  I've tried to do my homework in this arena, because research fascinates me, and I love books with authenticity.  In the next Thea Paris novel, SKYJACK, Thea has her hands full when the BBJ she is on is hijacked--and maybe, just maybe, the conditions are not so ideal.


2 comments:

  1. A great reminder, K.J., to everyone about to embark on holiday travel about the relative safety of airline travel (OK, so we feel cramped and hungry - but still....) Compared to car crashes which take so many lives, you are exactly right that getting on a plane (and relinquishing control, which often is hard to do for many of us) is still the way to go! So enjoy safe travels, everyone, along with a warm and wonderful holiday season!

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  2. OK, you're right that it's safe - but I still hate it. IF only Europe and LA were easily accessible by some other moe on the ground.

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