News + Comment 2015

Opinion: When the race to explain becomes the race to blame

When tragedy strikes we desperately want to know how did this happen?  And when tragedy involves air travel it disturbs us in a visceral way.

Despite the relative safety of flying by plane, it’s the lack of control that disturbs us most.  Flying is an inherently strange, disconcerting experience. We place our lives in the hands of the pilots – as we do with surgeons – and need to feel we trust them absolutely.

Many of us clench our flingers and shut our eyes as the plane accelerates down the runway then lifts off the ground. Within minutes, we’re trying to breathe slowly while hurtling through the air, thousands of metres above the ground. Then the captain’s voice comes through the cabin, telling us about the weather and expected time of arrival, and there’s something about that slow, reassuring voice that calms us down.  But it’s really only when we finally touch down that the full relief comes.

It’s very easy for us to imagine being on Germanwings Flight 9525.