Ignorance was bliss!

How much of what goes into flying a plane do you know about? Are you one of those people who merely travelling from A to B without really knowing what happened? Are you just pleased that you have arrived at your destination. More importantly, do you want to know? And how much would you want to know?
I teach English as a foreign language. Most of my students work in corporate companies or universities. Recently, management added Aviation students to my schedule. While I am pleased to know that pilots and air traffic controllers are learning to express themselves in English, part of me mourns the loss of blissful ignorance.
My class discussions went from “How to order at a restaurant” and “Using Small Talk” to “How to describe a holding pattern” and “Lost in the skies”. And as for tasks such as: “pretend your teacher is the air traffic controller. Practice how you would describe a mechanical malfunction or problem in a clam and precise manner”? The word: “distressing” comes to mind.
Last month, I didn’t know that when there’s a lot of congestion there’s a specific holding pattern that determines who lands where and when. Nor did I know “what would happen in the unlikely event of landing gear failing to lock” and I certainly didn’t know about handbooks in the cock pit. ‘Pan-pan’, ‘Burn off fuel’, ‘belly-landing’. These were all foreign concepts for me.
And you know what?
I was Haaappy!
I like being the passenger on the plane who when asked by the investigators after the incident simply says: “I can’t even imagine what happened, sir.”
Should I over hear any comments about a possible problem, I want to think: “hmmm…”
Then, I’d go back to my seat and happily marinade pool of ignorant bliss. I would know that there are no mechanical malfunctions, there are no near misses and no one ever, ever refers to a handbook. (I know that pilots are human beings but for some reason the words pilot and handbook in one sentence make me really uncomfortable.)
Aviation English stole my bliss!
Now…I know.
Now…I know more than I wanted to know because I’m the passenger who just doesn’t want to know.
Now…I’m informed…
“Oh goodie!”

One Comment Add yours

  1. Michelle says:

    You should totally read Malcolm Gladwell's “Outliers” that has a section on pilots, airplane crashes, and the necessity of knowing blunt English to avoid disastrous situations. Good luck!


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