Friday, April 16, 2010

Up in the air

Clooney never had to deal with this.

The enormous plume of ash continues to spew across Europe, as those wily Icelanders wreak havoc on the hated bankers of Europe/flee in terror from their exploding glacier.
Exploding glaciers sound suspect. Hot things exploding, that's fairly plausible. Cold things made of ice and snow, not so much.

That notwithstanding, it seems like our airline pilots have lost a lot of their bottle. Literally. If they'd only allow flight crews to wobble onto their planes half-cut on a combination of duty-free and prescription-only painkillers, maybe they'd exhibit a bit more of the kind of devil-may-care foolhardiness that we need to keep our global transport system ticking over.

In the old days a volcano wasn't anything to be scared of. You'd just fly into it, to put the frighteners on the proles in cattle class. OK, all four of your engines might fail and then you'd have to aim the nose at the ground in a frantic effort to blow all the ash out and get those engines running again.

And then, just for a laugh, you'd fly back into the plume of smoke and have to do it all again. Wheeee!!!

That's maybe just me being overly proud of our British Airways pilots. But they weren't the only ones. Some handy Dutch guys flew their KLM plane into Anchorage via a volcano, and I doubt they panicked. The good people of the Netherlands are renowned for their calm and sang-froid[1].

Yet these days, nobody has the good decency to stand up to these waves of foreign lava and get on with their jobs of flying planes. It was all fun and games for them when they were planning to charge you for use of the toilets in-flight, but being frightened of a little bit of molten rock and superheated steam? That's really taking the piss.

Oh, sure, you'll hear them say "no, the clouds of silica ash are invisible on radar screens, we'd be exposing our passengers to untold risk" but that's just an attempt to use science to excuse their cowardice, when we all know science has nothing to do with it.

Those planes stay in the air through the continued agreement of a wise and beneficient deity, and being afraid of a little bit of ash just shows them to be cowards without the courage of their convictions.[2] You wimps, you disgust me.

Although actually, given that Foremanpappa and Foremanmamma have arrived safely in Hong Kong today, having escaped both the ash cloud covering London and then later that same vile execresence covering Finland, I have to reconsider my position. Some pilots are brave, plucky souls, happy to transport my parents without fear, away from the Doom of Iceland. It's all the rest, the ones that aren't Finnish, that disgust me.

1 it's no coincidence that sang-froid is of Dutch origin, literally translating as "placid in the face of volcanic adversity".
2 I'll say nothing about the role of the Pope in all of this. Maybe another time.


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