In the last while I have watched a fair bit of flight-disaster oriented shows to pass the time. Shows like Mayday, Seconds From Disaster and the like. Though that may sound somewhat morbid, it’s actually quite fascinating and informative.
Learning about the history behind the various kinds of aircraft utilized throughout history (Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner pictured above).
When it comes to Mayday, indeed, many of these stories do end on a sad note. Though there is arguably no safer method of travel than by air, major accidents of these airliners do tend to end in (potentially) hundreds of fatalities. Watching shows about some of those flights (Swiss Air 111, Air India 182, Bashkirian 2937 vs DHL 611) is sad since you know what is coming. However, there are also many situations (some that even the flight manual and training do not cover) that pilots do manage to recover from.
Take China Airlines flight 006 which had an engine flameout 41,000 feet. The loss of the engine caused the 747 to bank over and then eventually enter a dive towards the Pacific. Though normally a death sentence for any flight crew in this situation (AND the plane, since the airframe stress can rip it to pieces), this crew managed to pull out of the dive, with about 10,000 feet to spare, or about 20 seconds (and you thought the freefall exhibition ride was scary!).
It turned out to be pilot error (the crew failed to descend to a suitable hight for an engine restart, and the caption failed to use his rudder to counteract the lost thrust of the engine), but even so, that was one hell of a feat of flying. Both for the passengers (ALIVE!) and the plane (loss of the landing gear door and minor damage to the horizontal stabilizers).
Then there is TACA 110, which had both its engines stalled by heavy rain and hail (then later disabled by fire). Unable to make it to any nearby airports, the pilots decided their only option was to ditch in a channel. Until a barely more suitable option (a wide and grassy levee beside the channel) presented itself. Despite the weird circumstances, all survived.
United 232 (actual plane pictured above) had its 2ed engine fan disk fly apart mid-flight. Due to that engines location being just under the vertical stabilizer and rudder, the shrapnel created by the exploding disk destroyed the all of the planes hydraulic systems. Since almost all of the planes flight controls depend on hydraulics, this type of problem is often unrecoverable (Japan Airlines 123 , Turkish Airlines 981 (another DC 10) ). Despite the odds being stacked against the 4 pilots (one a DC10 instructor that happened to be on board the flight), they got the flight on the ground. There was a loss of life. However, a whole lot less than other similar situations.
But moving on, though those are some success stories, one should not underestimate the efforts of those that just happened to be dealt with an unrecoverable situation. Though the plane ended up crashing (often with total fatalities), those deceased pilots often tried their very best to fix the situation, right to the end. This should not be forgotten.
This entire post (thus far) likely seems at odds with its title. A post that could have been named “Why I Have The Utmost Respect For Airline Pilots” instead of “Can An Apistevist Use Air Travel?”. But I will shift now to how it’s relevant.
I listed a number of aircraft distress scenarios above (some that ended well, others that ended in tragedy) in order to give one a feeling of what can happen. Though the vast majority of flights will go without issue, some will not.
When it comes to a testing of the Apistevist philosophy, I don’t think there is any better an example to use then Air Travel (car accidents are more numerous, yes. But not nearly as well reported as air disasters).
When it comes to the Apistevist philosophy, I found in my initial research that there seemed to be 2 definitions. Those without religious faith, and those without any blind faith.
I went back to Google to confirm this, but I noticed that the first place one would check for information on the term (Richard Dawkin’s page) seems to be gone.
That explains the traffic boost to my explanation of the term in recent times. But its also unfortunate, because I do not want to come across as being an “expert” on the term when I am most certainly not. I am just a blogger stating my opinion.
But whatever the intellectually accepted definition is now, for the purpose of this piece, I am using the all blind faith definition.
In my past posts on this topic, I argued against the validity of the term’s all blind faith definition due to me seeing it as impossible to really live that way. Though my first post was unclear on my actual views, I cleared the misunderstanding with this one. At the time, my argument was based on foodstuffs obtained at a store or in a restaurant. Air travel had not occurred to me at the time, but it fits perfectly.
When you get on board a plane, the moment that airplane starts taxiing out to the runway, you have put your life in the hands of the pilots. For better or for worse, you’re largely out of control of your fate.
As demonstrated above, there is often no real reason to have any doubt about the competency of the pilots (or the rest of the flight crew). This was unfortunately untrue for the passengers and flight crew of Germanwings Flight 9525, but this is a very rare situation. Also, a plausible situation rectified by most airlines almost immediately after the discovery of the problem (many airlines now require 2 people in the cockpit at all times).
I had one recent commenter on my first Apistevist piece explain to me that I may be misusing the word faith when trust could be more applicable to the situation. This might be true.
As defined by Merriam-webster:
: belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.
: an arrangement in which someone’s property or money is legally held or managed by someone else or by an organization (such as a bank) for usually a set period of time
Full Definition of TRUST1
a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
b : one in which confidence is placed23
a : a property interest held by one person for the benefit of another
b : a combination of firms or corporations formed by a legal agreement; especially : one that reduces or threatens to reduce competition4archaic : trustworthiness5
a (1) : a charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence or as a condition of some relationship (2) : something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another
b : responsible charge or office
— in trust
: strong belief or trust in someone or something
: belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs
Full Definition of FAITH12a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religionb (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>— on faith
When it comes to situations that deal with “faith”, I understand that not all are equal. In terms of our relationship with people, often times a more applicable word to use would, in fact, be trust. Mainly when dealing with those that you are familiar with (you have previous evidence to make a decision).
However, when it comes to air travel, unless you know the pilot personally (or at least know their previous flight record), I would argue that it is less a matter of trust or confidence then it is a matter of faith. It’s right in the definition of the word ( firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust).
It strikes me that a part of the reason why many secularists may reject the word Faith in any form could be the same reason many reject the notion of Atheism as a religion. Both faith and religion are most commonly associated with the irrational and the unthinking, so it’s not surprising that secularists would reject the labeling.
That said, however, though people do at times wrongfully use the words religion or faith to describe atheism (often because they can not see outside of their own context), one should not be completely hostile to both terms, since at times they may well, be fitting.
As written HERE, atheism as a philosophy is not a religion. But some aspects of the community do qualify under the definition of the word. Though this is not inherently negative, it becomes so if you deliberately misrepresent the definition in order to further your argument.
The same goes for faith.
Someone who is secularist is obviously not religiously faithful. But as life has it, blind faith is not always just applicable in a religious context. Though we often have both confidence and trust based on past experiences with people (thus evidence), such a relationship always starts based on faith.
When it comes to air travel, there are different ways to in which one can look at the situation. For example, a flight on an airline and a plane for which you have past experience with could be viewed as a trip based on trust (one DOES have past evidence to support this assumption).
However, unless the plane is also being flown by a familiar pilot, you’re still basing your assertion on faith. Even if unknowingly.