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Eat less sugar and fly safely

When I got up this morning I was sad to hear that a plane was missing. I am sad for everyone involved. The friends the relatives and the airline industry. But if I’m honest I feel this way after any bad news because  somewhere, someone is feeling the grief of loss.

That’s where aircraft accidents have a  special place in our feelings of loss and danger. We have a feelings of helplessness and paralysing fear.

The media will have  fewer emotional headlines about a boat sinking with 100 lives lost than a plane crash with the same number of victims. There is no fire, literally and metaphorically, for the journalists to fan.

For some reason we think that the proximity of one passenger to another, the speed of the accident the sense of helplessness makes one form of accident better or worse than another. Because we can swim we feel that however slim our chances of survival from a sinking boat, that there is always hope.
We feel that in every type of transport there’s something we can can do to save ourselves. On the ground or on the sea we think  ‘ at least there’s a chance’. However absurd it is to think we could save ourselves in the middle of the ocean, it’s a thought that comforts us. We could jump from a moving train, we could steer away and avoid a head on collision when driving. There’s always hope.

In a plane the view is that there is no chance, no hope, none at all. An accident means the end.

The evidence shows otherwise. Most plane accidents are survivable for many of the passengers. But you have to help yourself and believe that there are things that you can do to minimise your risks. Knowing the safety procedures on board is your first responsibility to yourself and your fellow passengers and to your crew. it’s no good saying that reading the safety card or listening to the crew briefing makes you feel anxious. Too bad, get on and listen because despite what you think, many accidents are survivable. Some aren’t, many are.

The press have little interest in accidents that could have been disasters, but by the actions of the passengers and crew are relegated to minor incidents. They prefer  a speedy fiery collective death.

There’s a thing called the availability heuristic. It’s a rule of thumb process where we relate the chances of being in an accident to the ease  we have in recalling an incident of its occurrence. Thousands upon thousands of people die of things much more common than air crashes and we don’t account for them.

One at a time thousands of overweight people will die of heart disease. But it won’t be a headline around the world.

As a doctor might say “Eat less sugar and fat and fly safely.”


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