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Donna Gee - Spain's Grumpy Old Gran

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Why my fear of flying is just a Spainful memory...
05 December 2015 @ 00:09

I used to be so petrified of flying that I'd lock myself away in the airport loo half an hour before boarding and demolish a quarter bottle of  neat Fundador.

Then I'd happily jet off to my destination full of carefree spirit, knowing that if the bottom fell out of the plane at 38,000 feet, I could ferry passengers and crew across the sky to safety using my own 40 per cent proof alcohol tank. 

Even in those days, I was aware that flying was much safer than driving. So, indeed, are the masses of nervous people today who are so scared of air travel that they think a Ryanair loo and a hot flush are the same thing.

So why did I ever get into a flap over what is statistically the safest form of travel on earth (or a few thousand feet above it to be accurate)?  

Global airline safety reports confirm there were a total of 90 commercial aeroplane accidents in 2013, just nine of which involved fatalities .

If you are set on meeting St Peter at the Pearly Gates ASAP, then I can reveal that making the trip on two wheels is by far the best bet.  The 173 people killed on those doomed trips may seem a lot but when you look at the figures in the context of 32 million flights worldwide, the overall statistic of one accident per 300,000 flights and one fatality every three million trips proves conclusively that there is no safer form of transport.

Yes, the riskiest way to travel anywhere is on a motorbike. Mile-for-mile, motorcycling is statistically  3,000 times more deadly than flying – and you are 100 times more likely to die travelling to Spain on four wheels than on a UK charter flight to or from the Costas.  

Feel free to double the car-death figure if you include the loony Spanish fly boys who have brought a new skill to the art of driving. It's called airborne overtaking and it's soaring in popularity on my local autoroute.

I was approaching my fifties (in age, that is, not maximum driving speed) when I finally came to terms with the fear-of-flying nonsense. During a rare moment of airborne sobriety, my pickled brain came realised that Fundador-mentalism at ground level was much more likely to kill me than an extinct bird trying to board Ryanair ‘s smallest aircraft.

So when I now squeeze myself into one of Michael O’Leary’s tiny 3,000-seaters, I am reasonably relaxed, albeit still with the ability to panic whenever turbulence is around. Admit it, you laid-back veterans of sky travel  - don't you cast a quick look at the cabin crew's faces whenever the engine sound changes or if the fasten seat-belt signs suddenly lights up? 

I'm sure the aircraft staff are trained to remain calm at all times. But I defy them to keep a straight face if and when a desperate dodo sticks its beak into the starboard wing and the engine catches fire.

For all that, it's great to be smugly dismissive of the occasional flyers who break into a round of applause when their holiday flight touches down. What's coming next - a windbound for the driver?

For me, the most sobering thought is that my daughter and her other half run  a major training centre for motorcycle riders in Manchester. 

I need a drink. Anyone seen my hip flask?

PS. A thought on the new menace of terrorism in the air. In the wake of the 9/11 horror, airline passenger miles in the United States fell between 12% and 20% while road travel rocketed. By the time the panic ended and sky travel returned to normal, academics estimated that 1,595 extra lives had been lost. I never could figure out the Americans.



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SandrainAlgorfa said:
12 December 2015 @ 09:34

Donna, you could be talking about me! My first flight was back in the 1960s when the planes had outside toilets and we had the mother and father of a storm going over. At the age of 14, it seemed as if my first trip abroad was going to be my only one!

It took me me 40 years and a move to Spain to get comfortable with flying, and like you, I still don't like anything different and hate take off and landing. My fuel of choice was vodka, not Fundador - I think I feel a blog post coming on!

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