Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The story of the season: flight cancelled for safety reasons - shock, horror

o that’s the Festive Season over with, snow is on its way, and it’s time to think of holidays. Happy New Year!

The big aviation story over the Christmas period was all about a group of children on their way to see Santa at Rovaniemi in northern Finland just before Christmas. Rovaniemi is in that part of northern Finland that forms part of Lapland, though any self-respecting Sami will tell you that the word Lapp is pejorative and that the area, that spans northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and part of Russia, is in fact Sameland. But I digress.

The big story of the day was that these children, their families, parents, grandparents, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, had gone to Manchester Airport at the crack of dawn in a state of excitement to see Father Christmas, who purportedly resides in Sameland, despite the fact of his origins being those of St Nicholas of Myra in Turkey. Well anyway, after some waiting around it turned out that the flight was cancelled, as the pilot was concerned that the weather conditions at Rovaniemi would not be conducive to a safe landing.

When the story the was taken up by the media you could not turn on the TV, go to a newspaper’s website, or turn on the radio without being regaled with a tale of woe about how cruelly disappointed these dear children were, with the newsreel being repeatedly re-played, with airport scenes of distraught parents - so distraught in fact that the police had to be called in before they attacked staff members. Oddly, it was the parents that appeared to be terribly upset, while the children appeared stoic.

In all the drama, it didn’t seem to occur to any of the journos, parents and the like, that it is better to be disappointed and alive, than on your way to see Santa and risking a tricky landing.

Pilots have to make loads of decisions about safety, and it is important that airlines put safety above all else, something that the grown-ups who were weeping and wailing at the airport, and the media frenzy that followed them, might remember.

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