Dear Captain Lim,
My name is Ben and I am sixteen years old. I don't fly that often these days, but just recently, I have never been so scared of flying!
In July, I flew to Almeria, Spain from Manchester. I live in Glasgow but had to drive to Manchester as there were no flights from Glasgow. I felt the drive was safer. My fears are, what if the plane is struck by lightning and the tail falls off. Please try and answer this hypothetically. How does the plane stay up? I know it sucks in 5,000,000 tons of air per second but can you measure that? I have never been to America and I would really love to go but I am far too scared to fly!
I have to fly to London in a few months time and I am absolutely petrified! When I am in a plane, my heart beats at 200 beats per minute! I used to love flying but then last year when I was in Almeria, the plane was delayed for 5 hours, so I had to fly to Heathrow on a much bigger plane! Now, here is the first time I had experienced, what I would have thought to be severe turbulence. I heard a bang and then the plane just dropped. I thought I was going to die. So I took out my mobile phone and wanted to say my goodbyes. Then it stopped for 2 minutes and then it started to drop again. I looked behind me and I saw every one holding onto their seats and were screaming! There was a warning announcement of the turbulence but I had no idea it could be that bad!
My main fear in flying is during the take off, and as I look out of the window, I wonder how the engines are able to stay on? If one fell off, what would happen? When I hear weird noises, that is when I start to panic. I HATE take off as I feel like I am sinking. I really feel dizzy. I don't mind the cruising part although I just think what if the plane can't suck in anymore air and starts to drop! What if there is an engine failure at 37,000 feet?
My favorite part of the flight is during the descent as I know I am coming closer to land! I also want to know, when the plane is turning, how can it balance and why it doesn't just tip and nose dive? I am hardly bothered by terrorists. I have a small fear of them, but my main problem is:-
HOW DOES THE PLANE STAY UP, HOW CAN IT COPE WITH TURBULENCE AND WHAT IF ENGINES FAILED OR RUN OUT OF FUEL? WHAT IF THE ENGINES CATCH FIRE HALF WAY THROUGH THE FLIGHT WHEN YOU ARE CRUISING OR WHAT IF THEY CATCH FIRE WHEN TAKING OFF OR LANDING?
Why can't we all get parachutes so that if there is a crash, we all can jump out? That would make me feel safer! So can you give me all the reassurances I need to cure my flying antics?
Your website is unbelievably helpful, thanks Captain. Can you get back to me as soon as possible as I have a flight soon?
You have so many questions and they have mostly been answered on my site if you have taken the trouble to go through all of them, especially on how an airplane stays in the air, turbulence, how a pilot cope with an engine fire and many others. Take your time to browse through them when you are free.
I will answer your question on why passengers in an airplane are not provided with parachutes. If you have read my topic in this site on "How safe is flying?", you would realize that flying today is very safe. Partly because of that, the conventional philosophy of commercial air transport is, parachutes are unnecessary. This is in contrast to the military fighter pilots who require them because they are liable to be shot down. Even passengers in military transport airplanes are not provided with parachutes.
Now, I will tell you why and what are some of the problems that come with your suggestion. About seventy five per cents of air accident occurs during the landing and take off phase. That may constitute about less than 10 percent of the total flight duration. Airplane rarely have technical problems during the cruising part of the flight unless there is an in-flight explosion caused by a bomb, such as the one in the Lockerbie accident over Scotland. In this case, parachutes would be useless anyway. Even, assuming that there are parachutes available, there would be problems for the passengers. Do you know that if you want to be a qualified parachutist, you would have to undergo a recognized course lasting for weeks or months? Do you know that, if you are able to evacuate from a great height, you would encounter problems of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and extreme temperatures? I have a question from one reader asking me whether a person falling down from the sky would be conscious. A medical scientist who read my answer have added more details on this topic. If you are interested, please go to here.
Bearing in mind the many problems that may arise, it was found impractical to equip passengers with parachutes. No commercial aircraft manufacturers would design their planes with parachutes. None has ever done so. What would the passengers think of?
Wish you a pleasant and safe flight always!