I found an old newspaper (Xmas 2003) lying around the other day. It provided a perfect illustration of the way our newspapers urge us to look at the world.
In New York, a tipsy pilot has been arrested and a planeload of passengers queued up to tell an eager media about how dreadfully it has all been handled. (i.e. they were forced to stay an extra night in a nice New York hotel and they have all been given a free flight as compensation). One of them was a pretty Actress! (interviewed by all networks on both sides of the pond).
Again, the dynamic between a highly risk averse company culture combines with an increasingly litigious population to create a shril climate of over-reaction and recrimination.
Elsewhere, competing pressure groups are moaning about the proliferation of air travel – now within the financial reach of millions. The particular issue exercising everyone is the location of the new runways that are being planned, the noise and the traffic that they will cause.
The contribution that aviation fuel makes to global warming is also uppermost in all of our minds.
Like everything else, flight is only discussed with a pervading sense of doom. Yet the progress in the last century is barely believable. A TV programme a while ago (can’t remember the name, date or channel – sorry!) tried to recreate the circumstances in which the Wrights worked by attempting to complete a rival project that was cruelly curtailed by the death of it’s project leader. In 1903, flight was precarious and rickety affair. The first journey lasted less than a minute.
When we then bear in mind that the vast majority of progress – Kittyhawk to Concorde - took place within one lifetime, it is astonishing that the ‘celebration’ of this fantastic acheivement wasn’t more ostentatious.
But then, a major celebration of any kind these days will simply provide a backdrop for a new round of recriminations, over-reaction and hysteria.