This writer thought he was going to die on an airplane this weekend. This is what went through his mind.
The Tennessean's sports columnist, Joe Rexrode, was one of 139 passengers aboard Delta flight 1474 when it lost one of its engines en route to Cleveland from Atlanta on Sunday. In a gripping account of the episode, Rexrode recalls being paralyzed by what to write to his wife and kids in the face of what he believed was certain death (the plane ultimately made an emergency landing in Knoxville, Tennessee).
"[T]he engine on the right side of the plane blew, creating a loud, awful screeching noise and a worse, burning smell in the cabin," Rexrode writes. "The plane wobbled and dipped, not like a typical instance of turbulence. The flight attendants looked as stunned as everyone else — my eyes went directly to them after the jolt — and quickly wheeled the drink cart back to the front of the plane and gathered near the cockpit. They started looking through an emergency manual. I'm no expert, but I'm thinking that's not a great sign."
Rexrode goes on:
It felt like the plane was going down, and below us were mountains. And then it got worse. Another loud, awful noise, followed by silence and the feeling that we had no more engine propulsion in the air. It's the most quiet I've ever heard a plane. At that moment, I thought the other engine was gone. The only sound among 139 people was a couple of them whimpering and a couple of young children babbling.
That's the first time in my life I've been certain I was going to die. [The Tennessean]
Despite two major commercial aircraft incidents in 2015 — the intentional Germanwings crash in the French Alps and the allegedly terror-related Metrojet crash over Egypt — there has almost never been a safer time to get on an airplane, Condé Nast Traveler reports. Recently released numbers show that 2015 was the safest year for air travel since World War II and the London-based consultancy Ascend reported that for the first year ever, not one passenger fatality was recorded on a Western-built jet, aside from in acts of suspected violence.
Discounting the Germanwings and MetroJet Airbus events, the highest individual fatality count was 54 resulting from the crash of a Trigana Air ATR 42 in Papua during August. The second-highest, 43 casualties, also resulted from a turboprop accident when a TransAsia Airways ATR 72 came down after take-off from Taipei in February.
Ascend's annual review recorded eight fatal accidents last year, all involving turboprops from relatively small carriers, with only three accidents involving revenue passenger flights — the lowest total since 1946. [Flightglobal]
"The traditional accident rates were down, and we can attribute that to good practices and to new airplanes coming into service,” aviation consultant and former National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia told Condé Nast Traveler. "But we still have to address the role of the human being." Jeva Lange