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!”

The Others

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were on a plane that crashed or the boat you were on sank? Even though I am a bit of a nervous flier, I always thought that I would be like Lara Croft or Nikita calm, bold, determined and resourceful. You know, the girl who used survival techniques to save herself, her fellow passengers and basically the whole day.

But, I guess you don’t know how you will react until you are in that situation. Recently I was on a flight to Cape Town, a flight I have taken a number of times. The flight started off as usual with the safety and welcome speech from the flight attendants. Then the plane made its way to the runway (all very normal).
Just as the plane took off the ground, I hear a loud cracking sound above me. I immediately closed my eyes, wrapped my arms and whilst rocking like a baby I repeatedly thought: “please let it be ok- please let it be ok”. When I finally had the courage to open my eyes, I discovered that the oxygen makes had dropped from their slot in my row.
Did I reach for them?
Nope.
Finally, the flight attendant came by laughed and said: “I’m so sorry mam; I hope you didn’t get too big a fright”. She then proceeded to casually slap the masks back into their compartment, smile brightly and say: “these things happen you know”.
Well, thank you very much oh kind flight attendant, it doesn’t get anymore comforting than that!
In the safety speech, they always say: “please secure your own mask before helping others.”
Turns out, I’m not Lara Croft and I’m certainly not Nikita.
I’m…“The Others.”
Note to Self:
In the event of an emergency or loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop above you. Calmly and I repeat calmly reach for the mask and place it over your nose and mouth.
Breathe normally.
Remember…God only helps those who help themselves! 🙂