For Your Crashing Pleasure

Written by Andrew Marshall

Posted on 20 March 2010

Tomorrow I’m flying to the Philippines where, if all goes to plan, I’ll interview welterweight boxing champ Manny Pacquiao about his latest bid for political office.

But first the flight. It is said that Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok’s main international airport, has the world’s tallest air-traffic control tower. This seems a strange thing to brag about. How smart is it to build a 132-metre-tall structure in an area where aircraft must, by necessity, fly fairly low? It reminds me of that Soviet-era boast about Russian computers: “Of course they’re the best. They’re the biggest in the world.”

One secret affliction of many journalists is that they can’t stop mentally editing and re-writing the words they read or hear around them. This makes air travel even more unbearable. For example: “In the seat pocket you’ll find our inflight magazine for your reading pleasure.” Worst still: “The cabin is pressurized for your comfort.” It’s not pressurized for your comfort. It’s pressurized for your survival. Or, if you like, for your surviving pleasure.

There is nothing pleasurable about most inflight magazines. They are, with a few (usually British) exceptions, unreadable. But I have a soft spot for travel3sixty, AirAsia’s magazine, if only for a column called “Pilot’s Perspective,” which seems designed to give nervous passengers the willies.

“AirAsia pilot Captain Lim Khoy Hing returns with more funny anecdotes to entertain and enlighten us about the mysteries of flying.” First funny anecdote? The death of 329 people. “On June 23, 1985,” writes Capt. Lim, “an Air India flight exploded over Irish airspace. Investigators found that one of the passengers had checked in his bag (with explosives) at Vancouver International Airport but failed to board the plane.”

The only thing Capt. Lim loves more than scaring passengers is exclamation marks. The topic of one of his columns is—I kid you not—catastrophic loss of cabin pressure. He recalls a passenger who tampered with an emergency-exit door-handle “and ended up opening the door!” He also explains that if the cabin depressurizes at 35,000 feet a pilot needs five minutes to descend to an altitude at which oxygen is no longer required. “The oxygen from your drop-down mask will last approximately 15 minutes, so you’ll still have about 10 minutes to spare!”

The last time I flew AirAsia, “Pilot’s Perspective” didn’t appear in the inflight mag. I wonder if it has been axed. I also wonder if that passenger who tried to open the emergency exit had just read another of Capt. Lim’s columns.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment