Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Plane Crash on the Same Day I was Flying (Deja Vu)

Our sincerest sympathies go out to the families and friends of the victims of the Air France plane disaster this past Sunday. The plane was flying from Rio to Paris and all perished in the Atlantic. A 3 mile area in the ocean has now been identified with the plane debris. It will take a long time to identify the cause of the crash.

Strangely, this is the second time in 2009 that I have been flying on the same day as a plane crash. Last February, I blogged about my trip to Dallas to give a talk at the INFORMS Chapter. I flew the same day as the plane crash in Buffalo and last Sunday I was flying back from Rome, Italy. The flight back from Rome was very comfortable except that the female in front of me was seriously ill during the landing and the food critic who was seated behind me also was suffering and told me that she is terrified of takeoffs and landings.

I remember flying back to Boston from Erice via Milan the morning after the Italians beat the French in the World Cup in soccer in 2006. The festivities following the win in Italy were spectacular with fireworks and much partying. I did not expect the Alitalia crew to be able to fly but fly back to the US we did. However, while taking the shuttle back to Amherst from Logan I had an uneasy feeling and asked the driver whether the tunnel we were going through (a product of the Big Dig) was in good shape. The next morning I read in the paper how only a few hours after my query part of the tunnel roof collapsed and a young woman who was in a car died. The suit was just recently settled.

Dr. Arnie Barnett, who is an expert on risk and airplane disasters and is a faculty member at MIT spoke in our INFORMS Speaker Series at UMass Amherst in the Fall 2007. The title of his presentation was "Is it Really Safe to Fly?" I could use a conversation with him now but, luckily, my upcoming speaking engagements I can reach by car and train.