Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I never know how worried to get about airplane turbulence.

As I mentioned, I flew back to Maine on Sunday rather than my usual train-to-bus route. Ordinarily, I prefer to travel by train. The speed of air travel disorients me, and it's worse because I generally fall asleep on takeoff, and thus have no memory of traveling from Point A to Point B. Some people like that, but I don't; I want to feel that I'm actually going somewhere.

On Sunday, a line of thunderstorms interrupted my nap. The pilot came over the radio to warn us about turbulence, and sure enough, the plane lurched and bucked hard for about the next 90 seconds. It was enough time for me to say a few Hail Marys and wonder about whether anyone would know where Dizzy was, if I went down with the plane. (For the record: most of the time when I travel without him, he stays here.)

But the turbulence didn't last long, and our plane landed safely and right on time.

Which makes me all the more fascinated with the disappearance of yesterday's Air France flight. According to news reports, the plane crossed a band of heavy thunderstorms near the equator, then reported an electrical system failure and a loss of cabin pressure. Then it disappeared.

I am not a nervous flier. It's never seriously occurred to me that a plane could just drop out of the sky, and I've never felt particularly worried when we hit turbulence. Is this just simple-minded and naive?

Today's summer reading recommendation: Alan Bradley, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. In the English countryside of 1950, 10-year-old Flavia de Luce amuses herself with elaborate chemical experiments and tormenting her two older sisters. When a stranger turns up dead in the garden after a mysterious meeting with her father, Flavia determines to save her father from suspicion by any means necessary. This is a wonderful, old-fashioned mystery with a unique but believable main character, and I hope we see much more of Flavia.

Oh, and I almost forgot: John Connolly launches his latest Charlie Parker novel, THE LOVERS, at The Great Lost Bear in Portland tonight at 7:00. He's giving away free stuff and it should be a good time, so I'll hope to see you there. I did a little (very little) work for THE LOVERS, but would have liked it even if I hadn't....


Karen Olson said...

I can't fly without Xanax. And since I'm flying to Paris next month, I am turning off any news about that missing plane. Ignorance truly is bliss.

mierla said...

I dunno about turbulence, but I second your recommendation of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. The audiobook (unabridged, natch) was my accompaniment for a very long day of yardwork a couple weeks back and I enjoyed it immensely.

Larry said...

Clair, I'm an aeronautical engineering and think I can provide you some comfort. Structural integrity of the aircraft is of paramount importance. What you experience in the normal course of air travel is at best a minimum to what the plane is design to withstand.

I don't have a clue what happened to Air France, but the reports of automated messages reporting electrical failures suggests it was something other than rough air that brought them down. Would flying into a thunderstorm have caused the electrical failure? Doubtful, but not impossible.

Whatever brought them down was a series of extremely unusual circumstances and likely one in a century event.

I worry more about the clown on the highway going 80, on the cell phone while reading the paper than OI do about going down in a plane.

Elisa said...

I'm also very worried about the AF plane. My best friend is going to fly from Quito to Paris with AF and it makes me nervous to think about that after the current news.

Moira said...

Sorry I missed you in Boston. I didn't get your email until I got back.

I have grown out of my flying anxiety. But that recent tragedy freaks me out. I never thought turbulence could bring down a plane. Thank you Larry, for giving me back peace of mind.

P.S. Did you ever read The Ten Year Nap? Sheila's reading it now.

AnswerGirl said...

I just picked up a copy of THE TEN-YEAR NAP at your recommendation, Moira!