I don’t know about you. But every time I step on a plane, I wonder if it is my last step off terra firma. That moment where one foot, usually my left foot, is still on the gangway and my right foot lands on the floor of the aircraft.
I’ve always had an odd, morbid obsession with air disasters. And judging by the insane media coverage they get, millions of others do too.
I read about the possibilities and imagine myself strapped into one of the seats on that plane. The movie starts playing in my head. I feel the swerve, the first bounce, the first visible sign that something out of the tedious ordinary is going on. The screams from fellow passengers. The horror in the faces of the cabin crew — a sure sign that something is seriously wrong. The increasing velocity as the nose pitches down. Or the sickening drag, if the nose pitches up as the pilots desperately try to regain altitude. Like climbing up a long ladder and slowly feeling it tilt backwards, stalling and then dropping from the sky like a stone.
What would those moments feel like? The terror. The moments of disbelief that life is about to end. How would I react? Can I trust my brain to shut down and prevent me from feeling the moment of unimaginable pain as my flesh is torn apart by the insane forces that would impact on my body during impact?
On Sunday, a brand new Boeing 737 Max 8, screamed down the runway off of the hot and high runway in Addis Ababa. At just over 7'600 feet above sea level, a passenger jet needs a very long distance to build up enough velocity and lift to get all that luggage and prepacked meals and drink trolleys and human beings into the air. Once it was airborne, according to reports, it called the tower to say it needed to come back. Something about struggling to control the vertical airspeed. The control of the plane was slipping from the pilots. It was on its final destiny. Four months after being delivered to the airline, one of Africa’s finest, it was swerving through the sky and then pitched down to plough into a hill a few miles away from the airport, obliterating everything inside it into a giant crater.
On board — 149 passengers and eight crew. Amongst the passengers were a large number of UN staff and representatives, on their way to a conference in Nairobi. Probably some of them were fretting about finalising presentations and documents.
One hundred and fifty-seven humans who all made one last step from terra firma for that very last time.
Rest in peace, the crew and passengers of Ethiopian ET302. Millions of thoughts are with you.