“All four engines have failed”


I’ve been obsessed with plane crashes lately. No, obsessed isn’t right. Oppressed, maybe? I seem to be encountering information about air horror wherever I turn. Always nice before a series of trans-oceanic flights.

A few weeks ago I watched Superman Returns. The Man of Steel says to the passengers of a wingless jumbo jet he’s just safely landed, “I hope this incident hasn’t put you off flying. Statistically speaking it is still the safest way to travel.” It is a direct lift of a line Christopher Reeves also uttered in the original Superman from 1978. Certainly true, but for me it fails the truthiness test.

Then, as I babysat my computer during a marathon session of video rendering, aimlessly clicking through Wikipedia, I landed on Aviation accidents and incidents (part of the hell’s-gateway-esque Disasters Portal). Browsing through the air disasters really was like rubbernecking a car accident. I couldn’t turn away. I read every article in there. Airshow accidents, In-flight airliner explosions, Midair airliner crashes, Deliberate airline crashes, Fuel exhaustion on commercial airliners … the subcategories are scarily unique and many.

What you start to realize is: Damn, there are a lot of disasters where we don’t really know what happened. And then, once that’s sunk in: Damn, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often. There are some fascinating incidents. The jet that ditched in the Neva River in St. Peterburg, Russia without a single loss of life. The mentally-ill Japanese pilot who deliberately crashed on landing. And the worst of all collision of two 747’s on Tenerife in 1977.

Then — somehow, I wasn’t specifically looking — I stumbled upon this video of Boeing testing the structural limitation of the 777 wing. They found it. (And if I am ever in a plane with a wing bent like that I will have involuntarily evacuated my bowels well before structural failure, yessiree.)

Then yesterday, this story of a 747 that lost all four engines and actually landed safely. It is a terrifying tale. Again, I was not searching. I must be unconsciously sifting these things out of my feed reader or something.

And finally, gallows humor. This artwork/concept for a crash landing pillow that gives you the option of suffocating yourself before crashing. For the true control freak, you may now take charge of your own death, flaming airframe be damned. You know, it’s said that the only reason you’re told to put your head between your knees during a crash is so that your dental records stay as close as possible to the seat number for identification.

Anyway. Not sure what this obsession is all about. It would be one thing if I were actively hunting this information out, but I’m not. I feel like I’m in an M. Night Shyamalan flick.

I depart Monday.

One response to ““All four engines have failed””

  1. GC says :

    There are far fewer plane crashes than car wrecks, but also a hugely smaller number of flights than there are people driving. When you crunch all of the numbers, for any individual trip, the chances of getting in a car wreck are higher, but the chances of dying are about the same whether you are flying or driving. Cheers.