After the extremely unsettling videos of the TransAsia crash in Taiwan on Feb. 4, we reckoned it was time for good news. With 42 dead and an untold number of motorists traumatized when they witnessed the crash, we thought we'd had enough. Then, on Feb. 14, we read that Taiwan transportation authorities had administered a skills test to the country's 49 pilots who fly the same aircraft, a turboprop ATR.
Ten of the pilots failed. Taiwan aviation authorities commented that the results were "unsatisfying." What was it the pilots didn't know? Emergency management protocols.
That was the breaking point. We decided to comb the Internet for more positive -- less "unsatisfying" -- information about flying. We came across a Huffington Post article from July 2013, "10 Urban Legends About Flying That Aren't True." We restrained ourselves from firing off a comment to HuffPost that urban legends are not true by definition, and we read on.
You may recall a story about a woman, or man, or someone's cousin, who heard a crash in the backyard, or porch, or living room, or driveway -- urban legends are notoriously flexible -- while doing the dishes or reading the paper or putting the baby down for a nap. The victim went to inspect and found a large chunk of blue ice to be the culprit.
The gross-out factor comes when the victim discovers that the blue ice is the jettisoned waste from an airplane flying overhead. Straight from the restrooms into your backyard, the legend went, but, thank heavens, freezing on the way down.
Pure legend. And not true, either. Airplanes store waste and wastewater in large holding tanks that can only be emptied after the plane has landed. There is no way for a pilot or flight attendant or Bart Simpson to empty the tank mid-flight.
We were comforted to read, too, about recirculated air and bad colds, the flu and the Ebola virus. It seems the air inside the cabin is safer than the air almost anywhere else.
Airplane air is fresh air that is pressurized and filtered to the point of being free of 99 percent of bacteria and viruses. If you get sick, don't blame the airplane. Blame the person who sat in your seat on the last flight who didn't wash his hands after wiping his child's runny nose.
There are more, but these two were enough to help us refocus. We'll get back to the dangers of air travel in our next post.
If we can take it.
Source: CCTV.com, "One in five TransAsia pilots failed oral exam," Feb. 14, 2015