Sunday, January 12, 2014

Flight of Fancy

Last night I watched the movie Flight with Denzel Washington. In the film (and I promise not to completely spoil it because it is a good flick) Denzel plays Captain Whip Whitaker, a commercial airline pilot who lands a plane after a catastrophic mechanical failure, saving nearly all the passengers on board.The film recreates a plane crash in horrifying detail as well as the horrors of alcohol and drug abuse. Whitaker was hammered drunk that fateful day. Throughout the film it becomes apparent that Whitaker's alcoholism is a real problem that he refuses to admit. 

After carefully looking at my alcohol abuse, and quickly dismissing it as a nonissue, I remembered this NPR story from December. According to MIT statistics professor Arnie Barnett, the odds of a safe landing is good. Like really good. The chances of being killed in a plane crash is about 1 in 15 million. 
"At that rate, 1 in 15 million, you could go approximately 40,000 years, taking a flight every single day, before you would, on average, succumb to a fatal crash," Barnett says.
Those are some damn good odds in my humble and terrified-of-flying opinion.

Flying has long been one of the safest ways to travel and with trains derailing, and cars spontaneously combusting, it's looking even better. Although it is still hard to belief that an aluminum tube hurdling 30,000 feet above the ground at speeds of 600 MPH is "safe." But, as the good professor explains, advances in nonflammable materials and collision detection systems make even a crash more survivable.

I like to think of myself as a rational person, and these statistics should put my mind at ease before and during a flight but they don't and I will continue to get hammered drunk before, during, and after a flight, or work, or day of the week. But don't worry, I take public transportation, which is relatively safe but creepy as hell.