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We have already briefly covered the incident about the hole in the Southwest plane causing the first fatality on Southwest airlines (apparently ever), but I wanted to add my own thoughts about the situation. An uncontained engine failure is such a rarity in commercial aviation, that it shouldn’t have happened. Yet it did. The fact it took a life is heartbreaking.

The cause of the hole in the plane?

Something in the engine broke off, probably a fan blade that was apparently suffering from metal fatigue, and which smacked into the plane window. The Southwest Airlines flight 1380 from New York LaGuardia to Dallas ended up making an emergency landing in Philadelphia as a result of this tragedy.

The engine was described as a mess:

My Thoughts

Whether this was the first or hundredth, the statistics related to loss of this woman’s life on Southwest airlines, will be neither here nor there for the family involved. This woman has gone as a result of getting on that flight, and so are all the hopes and dreams of her family and friends.

But we must remember that air travel is incredibly safe. The drive to the airport is far less safe than the flight you will take. But the unnatural nature of flying; being propelled by incredibly powerful engines at hundreds of miles an hour, in what is effectively a tin can, is exciting, but it doesn’t feel right or natural. Even after hearing numerous positive statistics about the safety records or airliners, many of the most regular travellers still feel uncomfortable in the air.

It is worth knowing that if a plane loses one engine mid-flight, it is usually not a problem for the plane to get to the nearest airport. In the unlikely event that it loses both, the plane can still get to the ground safely with a decent pilot, if there is an airport nearby. Flying is statistically very, very safe.

That said, my human psyche can’t make sense of a situation like this. This loss of life should not have happened and as a passenger, there is little to learn from the incident. Buckle up, cross your fingers and keep thinking of (a) those convincing safety stats and (b) your destination. That is why you are on the plane in the first place. Flying is a hugely low-risk activity and enables us to escape normality and travel to exciting and wonderful places. Remember this and go forth and travel.

(Photo: Joe Marcus)

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