Tag Archives: Airports

How I conquered my fear of flying – Funda-mental facts

24 Jul

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 awafundadorre 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 .
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.
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.
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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Alas Myth and Cones: Counting the Costa traffic jams in a city of red lights

18 Jul

I am lucky enough to have two homes. One is a sunshine villa 30 minutes’ drive from Alicante airport, the other a modest semi 18 miles north of Manchester’s three flight terminals.

An airport trip at the English end is subject to an electrifying hazard in the form of 50 sets of traffic lights. The consolation is that no more than 47 tend to be stuck on red at any given time.

If you are lucky enough to actually catch your flight, you do at least face a delightful evening discussing traffic lights with the Spanish cabbie driving you to Guardamar on the N332.

Mention the super-hazard of every street corner in Britain and the taxi driver’s conversation is likely to consist of a quizzical look and the words ‘Que es trah-fick-lie-eat?’

Odds are he won’t know what you are talking about because, believe it or not, there’s not a single set of the things between Alicante and my Costa Blanca home.

At the Manchester end one can, of course, avoid the red-light menace by heading for the airport via the city’s Park-And-Don’t-Move service, otherwise known as the M60 motorway.

That trip is no fun either, aRoadworks on the A21nd unless you give yourself at least two days to get to the airport, a couple of hours with your head immersed in 50 Shades of Red may well be less stressful than counting traffic cones.

Either way, both routes to the airport provide ideal material for a ‘100 Reasons to Escape Manchester’ publicity blitz.

What sort of voyeur gets a kick out of watching traffic cones breeding on the M60, for heaven’s sake? Last time I used the so-called ring road I counted 428 million giant ice-cream cornets during a six-mile crawl to the Trafford Centre. The 14-hour trip was marginally quicker than taking the car but my knees didn’t half hurt by the time I reached my destination. And I was suffering from orange-and-white colour blindness into the bargain.

One of the few perks of driving to Manchester airport via the city centre is that you can stop off for a coffee and a bacon butty. The down side is the £60 parking fine you’ll inevitably get in addition to burning off eight gallons of unleaded in a desperate attempt to park sideways on the single metre of kerb untainted by double yellow lines.

I appreciate that comparing the Costa del Salford with the Costa del Sol is akin to confusing Bury Market with the London Stock Market. But that’s a bourse-case scenario.

There are, in fact, many leisurely compensations for those who choose not to drive in what must surely be the wettest part of the UK. One is enjoying a morning swim to the office in downtown Mancunia’s high-street ocean, known to the aquatic community as the Sea of Umbrellas. The rush hour is so busy that there’s no choice but to do the crawl, and not only because the breast stroke is illegal and a butterfly as rare as an English Mark Spitz.

Which brings me on to football or, for the gob-fearing amongst us, the mouths of Wayne Rooney and Kompany.

Manchester is of course home to two top football teams, namely Bury and Oldham Athletic. Fortunately I don’t support Man United or Man City either, which is a bit of a relief since I don’t speak German (heaven help whoever puts the names on United players’ shirts) and with my flight back to Spain only 24 hours away, I’m pretty low on Sterling too (boom boom).

Oh, a geeky friend just called to say there are actually 49 sets of traffic lights between my Whitefield home and Manchester Airport. Using the bacon-butty route, that is.

I believe there are also 49 million traffic cones between Anfield in Liverpool and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

All paid for in Sterling, of course.

Runway heating could pay for itself in two years, says report

22 Dec

I am not privy to airport costings but the seemingly needless grounding of British-based planes during the ongoing cold spell is a soar point with me (pun intended).

Because it could all have been avoided if Heathrow,  Gatwick and other UK airports had  heating under their runways.

But that would not be ec0nomically viable,  did I hear someone say? The cost would be astronomical and would have to be passed on to those who utilise the airports.

Presumably that means  the thousands of us who stand around interminally analysing the ‘Cancelled’ and ‘Delayed’ messages on flight departure boards.

Presumably, then, the £12 car-park fee my daughter paid to pick me up at Manchester Airport last week is NOT astronomical. And  it’s reasonable to charge nearly a fiver for a sandwich?

Captive audiences will always be ripped off. The only way the public can counter the profiteers is not to buy extortionately priced goods. But when you are starving and stranded miles from nowhere, what alternative is there?

When you think about it, it is actually in the interest of the  airports to ground passengers because they have to eat. And that means buying those gold-plated sarnies and £4 bottles of water.

It might be a good idea to start charging for using the airport loos as well, as mooted by Ryanair’s penny-pinching boss. That’s gotta be worth a bog-standard million quid a week, surely.

I’m not surprised there’s no rush to invest in underground heating – and the predicted vast expense provides a good excuse. Of cours, Britain’s increasingly deluded bureaucrats also assure us  we don’t have enough sub-zero weather to justify runway heating. Which is nonsense if the past couple of climate-changing years are anything to go by.

So how expensive would it be to heat the runways? Well, an executive study at  St Cloud State University in Minnesota concluded that using geothermal heat can prevent the build-up of ice and snow ”and once installed, such a system could pay for it self in as little as 2-5 years.”

The report also slammed current methods of trying to keeping runways open, maintaining: ”Both chemicals and snow-ploughing vehicles have adverse effects on the environment as they contribute to pollution.”

I am no engineering expert, so have no idea whether such a system is feasible for UK airports. But something MUST be done about the seemingly endless delays passengers are suffering these days.

Keeping airports open at all times has to be a priority. BAA, who own Heathrow and Stansted among others, are predicting a 15 per cent rise in income next year to £1.12 BILLION. So they are not exactly skint. 

But do they really care that it’s becoming a bonus for passengers to get to their destination on the scheduled day, let alone on time?

The heat is on – or rather off if you’re in the UK. Whether those who make the decisions have the hot-water bottle to do anything about it is another matter.