I woke on Sunday morning to early reports that a plane had crashed at San Francisco International Airport, seeing comments on Facebook and Twitter before it was covered by CNN and New Zealand’s Stuff news site. Given how many hours I’ve recently spent in Boeing 777 planes, although all with Air New Zealand, it hits a bit close to home to see one of those planes crashing. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment, a marvel of engineering, and I always feel a deep privilege to be onboard one when traveling to the United States or London.
A couple of comments. First, my condolences to the families of the two teenagers who died, and my thoughts and prayers are with those who were broken, burnt, and otherwise damaged during the crash. The impact of those fateful few moments will live on for years for those onboard, the family and friends they had just said goodbye to in Korea, and the family and friends who were waiting for them at San Francisco. There’s a tremendous human cost to pay for going through such an event. I watched the video taken by Fred Hayes of the landing, and fully agree with his initial prayer—O Lord have mercy. That anyone survived the crash, let alone walked away, is almost unbelievable.
Second, I’m reminded of the fragility of air travel, and am very thankful for the men and women who train for years to be good at what they do in strapping 400 tonnes to their back and lifting off the runway, as well as everyone else who contributes to making the whole system work. Keep doing what you are doing, please! I know the science works because I experience it often, but that you can make a plane fly – and especially one as large and heavy as a 777 – is still an almost magical experience. For my part, I do pay about 70% attention to the safety briefings at the beginning of a flight, but since I can often recite them from heart, I admit to tuning out too frequently. I’ll do better, I promise.
Third, that a particular high-ranking executive decided to take a different flight back to SFO days or weeks in advance of the Asiana flight should not be newsworthy. It’s an irrelevant factoid, and degrades the conversation about the people who were on the plane and the impact on them and their family. If the decision had been made moments before boarding, then sure, it could be worth a mention – but since it was decided some time in advance, it’s irrelevant.
Fourth, to Boeing’s design and engineering staff: good job. Not only were you able to create a marvel of engineering that can safely fly people around the world in varying degrees of comfort, but you also created something that performed pretty well under crash conditions. As I said above, that anyone walked out alive is a miracle. As a frequent flyer I commend you for your work in creating such equipment that can perform so well under normal and abnormal operating conditions.
Finally, as a Christian, when flying in rough air spaces and through the turbulence which is all too common on both long and short-haul flights, I often close my eyes, lean back in my chair and pray this: Lord, if this is my time to die, I’m ready. I hope those on Flight 214 were too.