Boeing crash raises my fear of flying

Vusi Nzapheza Straight & 2 Beers
Ethiopians prepare for a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa. In a bid to ally passenger fears, airlines decided to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.
Ethiopians prepare for a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa. In a bid to ally passenger fears, airlines decided to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.
Image: REUTERS

Birds are falling out of the sky and the world is gripped by panic.

This comes in the wake of a spectacular crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, which killed everyone on board earlier this week. Even some of us who do not have aviophobia, or fear of flying, are wary of boarding a flight.

In a bid to allay passenger fears, airlines across the world moved swiftly to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft as investigations into the disaster commenced. The latest accident followed on the heels of a similar crash by Lion Air in Indonesia, which snuffed out all 189 people on board five months ago. The Boeing kite is a common denominator in the two accidents.

To its credit, SA has not experienced an air crash of this magnitude in decades, making flying one of the safest modes of transport here.

This is despite shocking revelations about an SAA pilot who has been flying passenger planes for 20 years with a fake licence. Our impressive flying record has not even made people who have never boarded a flight in their lives to reconsider their travel options.

Ironically, the number of people killed in the crash pales in comparison to the number that routinely perish on our roads on a weekly basis.

As a frequent flyer, I have had my fair share of hair-raising moments when a flight hits turbulence. There have been a couple of close shaves where I believed that the end was nigh. I have always ensured that I am sufficiently lubricated when I'm airborne.

It is a defective coping mechanism to ply myself with alcohol because any sign of trouble always leads to increased bowel movement. There are two reactions I have seen first-hand when a flight loses control.

There are always those disgruntled smiles on the faces of fellow passengers (and mine) and then there is sudden and involuntary moisturising of underwear. I can attest to this because after the storm has passed, there is usually increased traffic to the bathroom.

This does not mean I fully comprehend the terror experienced by those condemned passengers in the minutes when their plane nose-dived. The movies are not a reliable guide of those scary last moments when you realise it's all over.

This week, I happened to attend an exhibition of Proudly South African companies at the Sandton Convention Centre and among them was a stall by a local airliner.

My exchanges with a consultant moved to the Ethiopian Airlines disaster. Unfortunately, I seemed to be more informed about the accident than the consultant. She had no clue whether her company had the Boeing 737 Max 8 in their fleet. Her concerns were to ensure people chose to fly with her company.

I dutifully accepted the pamphlets and her business card before asking if they served stiff drinks on their flights. When she shook her head, I could not wait to dump her paperwork in the nearest rubbish bin. I choose to stay grounded rather than take to the skies in a state of sobriety.

My sincere condolences go to the families of the 157 Ethiopian Airlines victims.

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