I hate to fly and the reason I hate to fly is less about delays and hassles and expense and loss of privacy and more about the lack of control and plunging to a fiery death... but other than that...
Anyone who knows me knows I'm somewhat of a control freak. I don't care to control anyone else. Who cares about you? But, I do care to control just about everything that has to do with me! I leave very little to chance.
Therefore, the idea of giving up 100% of control to some nameless, faceless person that I can't even see is something I'm not keen on. And, of course, the idea of my life being dependent upon thrusting 80 trillion pounds of metal into the sky and coming down at the exact spot you want with zero problems is something I have a hard time wrapping my brain around.
I've had the misfortune of flying many times and I never liked it. My worst experience was in February 1997. Two of us were traveling to NYC to do a trade show at the Jacob Javits Center. We had a layover in Pittsburgh around noon. We were expected to leave around 1PM and get to New York an hour later.
The problem was a snowstorm in New York and all inbound traffic was halted. So, we sat and sat and sat for hours in the Pittsburgh airport. After 12 hours of this, they announced they were going to try to start flying people to New York who had been stranded. So, around 1AM, we boarded our flight. The show was to start at 9AM that morning and we hadn’t set up anything in our booth.
We got to New York around 2AM. The captain announced we were making our decent, but it seemed to last forever. All I could see was snow outside the window. Finally, the tops of some buildings/houses came into view and we were over the runway.
You may not know anything about LaGuardia Airport, but it is famous for having a short runway – the end of which drops into the water… and that’s where we were landing. So, once you see the runway, you want to feel the touchdown pretty quick.
As we were trying to land, the plane was rocking side to side, up and down all over the place and we just didn’t seem to be getting closer to the pavement. This went on for what seemed like an eternity. I was sure I was dead. Then, the plane suddenly powered up and we started to climb. Within a couple minutes all I could see was stars.
The captain came on the intercom and said, “Well folks, we’re not landing in New York tonight.” That was good and bad. The good news was that I wasn’t going to die that night. The bad news was that we weren’t going to make the trade show before it opened.
We got back to Pittsburgh about 3AM and tried to sleep any way we could. By 6AM, they were reloading us back onto a plane. We got to NYC about 7AM and had an uneventful landing. We raced to our hotel. The other guy showered and got ready while I went to the convention center. I set up a good deal of the booth by myself and was more or less ready for the 9AM opening. He showed up around 10AM and I went back to the hotel and showered. Both of us were tired, but I was used to being able to stay up long periods of time, so he left about 3PM to get some sleep. I not only didn’t get any sleep the previous night, but never even sat down once during the first day at the convention.
I’ve had other flight delays and other snowstorms and I never liked any of it. Nevertheless, some years ago I decided that I was simply going to control my brain and my fears (ok, I admit it) by the one thing that I live by... statistical probability.
It is a fact that there are approximately 28,537 commercial passenger flights every single day in the United States. Before I researched it, I figured it was between 1,000 and 4,000 per day, but I was wayyyy off. Incredibly, there can be as many as 4,000 of these flights in the air at any given moment during the day!
So, 28,537 times 365 days a year means there are roughly 10,416,000 commercial passenger flights per year. That’s 10 MILLION!
The next logical question to ask is when was the last time there was a commercial passenger flight that crashed?
In looking up all the "crashes" in the world since 911, there have only been two major crashes in the United States which took lives. Just a couple months after 911, an Airbus A300 crashed into a Queens neighborhood in New York City when the plane's vertical tail fin snapped just after takeoff. All 251 passengers and nine crew members on board are killed as well as five people on the ground.
The only major crash of any kind since November 12, 2001 was August 27, 2006 when a Bombardier Canadair CRJ-100 crashed during takeoff near Lexington, Kentucky, killing 49 of the 50 people on board.
So, let's use November 12, 2001 as the starting point. There have been 4,294 days since then (as of the day of my death – August 15, 2013). If you multiply 4,294 days times 28,537 flights per day, that's 123+ million flights - which includes only one major accident - killing 49 people!
Those are lottery probabilities - nearly impossible to die... ... via a plunging fiery death.
Having tricked (some might say educated) my brain, I've been able to advance beyond the John Madden fear of flying and pretty much get on a plane when it makes sense. That doesn't mean I like it, but I do it.