Fear Of Flying

This is I think testimony to the unquestionable uncertainty of life. Families that start out either to do a day's business or to enjoy some pleasure have been thrust into circumstances that they could not have imagined – Martin McGuinness.

Anybody who has flown the Belfast-Cork route will have perhaps reflected more than most on the fateful journey which saw six air travellers lose their lives. The North’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, a frequent flyer on the route, had considered travelling in the fated plane but his plan was changed ‘due to other circumstances.’ He must be breathing a sigh of relief while some of his republican critics curse his good luck.

I flew the route once, a comfortable enough flight despite it being in a turbo prop. Although I prefer jet engines to propeller blades, it never much bothered me as I read a book from beginning to end, barely noticing what was going on around me. Can’t remember what the book was and won’t venture a guess. It was not Erica Jong's brilliant Fear Of Flying which had been read during a period in my life when I was most firmly grounded. A friend once said to me he is not afraid of flying, just of the plane not flying when it should be.

Planes are well equipped for landing in all forms of weather. It is supposed to be easier for a pilot to take off in fog than it is to land in it. Makes sense. Stranded by fog at Saragossa Airport one morning we were told planes could take off but not land because of the weather conditions. Problem was our flight out had yet to arrive in from Barajas Airport. It couldn’t land so we couldn’t take off. We eventually took a taxi to Madrid so that we could make our afternoon fight to London on time. That put us in touching distance of Belfast which would complete the last leg of our journey. I needed to get home as I was flying out to Frankfurt from Dublin the following morning and could ill afford to be delayed in Spain because of fog.

It is that urgency to economise on time and fit so much more in that compels us to jump on the first available plane. I have often wondered if it is the safest option. Airlines know it too and might be prepared to compromise on safety if guaranteed a steady source of income from needy time pressed passengers.

What part if any ill attention to safety played is a matter for the six separate inquires that were initiated in the wake of the crash. Latest reports from two days ago suggest no problem could be found with the plane. This lends weight to a suspicion that human error, i.e. the pilots will be blamed. At 27 and 31 they were young and whether they had the requisite experience and flying hours is a matter to be decided in the course of any investigation. Two attempts to land the plane before the fatal third and final effort suggest something awry was at play. The family of the Spanish pilot claimed that while Jordi Sola Lopez was an experienced co pilot he had flown very few flights where he was in charge as the senior pilot. Co pilot Andrew Cantle had only started work with Manx 2 a fortnight earlier. Enough to raise eyebrows about the company if not point fingers.

Perhaps nothing untoward occurred and the accident was down to something no one could have foreseen. But as the Mafia might say ‘why take a chance?’ Only a transparent investigation which furbishes to the public the facts uncovered will assuage a fear of flying.


  1. I would fly a few times a year with Flybe on a turbo prop love them Anthony, mind you my advice to flyers is ,always sit at the back,you never hear of a plane reversing into a mountain, as for fisherman Marty he was lucky that time, we only have to be lucky once!

  2. I used to hate it with a passion. But now it just doesn't bother me.

  3. AM-

    Never on that flight before- was there any drinks on the go

    Was on a propeller plane from
    germany to romania a couple of times- enjoyed those flights- big
    seats and plenty of booze

    I remember a reporter saying that
    the pilot is only allowed to make
    two attemps to land then he has to fly to another airport- its a mystery why the 3rd attempt was tried- the family's and friends of the deceased deserve to know the truth.

  4. Anthony just a wee note re:Alan Simpsons Duplicity and Deception, yeah this is an interesting read about half way through,not the fastest reader in the world, verdict so far would be worth getting a hold of.

  5. Yet to meet anyone that has enjoyed the mother of all long haul flights, Europe to Australia. Mainly why I don't head back there much, you haven't flown until you've gone through that experience and the inevitable jetlag when you finally do reach the destination. Know one old codger here who arrived in the 60s by boat (you can imagine how long that would've taken then) and has not been back since, as he won't get on a plane.

  6. Marty,

    He was very biased in the book. Still, there were things in it that made it worth reading.


    At 7 in the morning with a full day’s work ahead of me I was not interested in the drinks!


    Europe to Australia is said to be a gruelling challenge. I think they stop for a break in Singapore.