Inhale…1…2…3… And hold.


I spend a lot of time on airplanes nowadays.

I caught the commuter flight from Logan to National last night. I asked for and got the window seat, which is the best thing in the world.

I never understand people who aren’t drawn to that view. Astronauts go to school and train for years of their life just to get that view. Pilots spend lifetimes and life fortunes just to be able to get that view on demand. I’m forking over a measly one hour and $200, you bet I’m going to have my eyes glued to the window.

I noticed the lower half of the plane was really cold. My legs and feet were well-chilled by the time we arrived. It got me thinking about the Payne Stewart air tragedy in 1999, when his Learjet lost cabin pressure somewhere above 35,000 feet and mysteriously the autopilot was engaged while everyone lost consciousness and froze to death for the next four hours while the plane ran out of fuel. Eventually the engine died and it crashed while military jets and the nation watched, helpless.

As I sit there with my stupendous view, I wonder, should I have driven my motorcycle? What are the odds of dying in the jet versus on the road on my Harley? Or just driving a rental car, hurricanes notwithstanding? And if the plane lost pressure, would it matter? Would I have time to react?

Common sense tells you not to pull the numbers on the car versus the plane. The car, and by comparison, the motorcycle, is statistically far more dangerous than the plane without any appropriate corresponding benefit, especially during the rainy season.

Which means I’m on the safest method of getting home. But once again, would I suffer? Is there anything I can do? For the answer to this, I consulted the FAA accident report on the Stewart crash, archived at Airsafe.Com

Although maudlin, it’s reassuring that within 8 seconds, you start to lose performance ability, and within 1-2 minutes you are entirely capacitated.

At least I won’t suffer.