Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Up, Up and down :(

Sometimes things happen quite unexpectedly. When it is a tragedy, people start asking "Why?". One such tragedy struck our town on Sunday, 27th August 2006 early morning around 6:15 AM. A Comair flight going from Lexington, KY to Atlanta, GA, carrying 50 people (47 passengers and 3 crew members) crashed as soon as it took off, killing everyone except one (Latest news here). This is supposedly the first plane crash in US after 9/11. The one survivor is the first officer of the flight, still battling for his life in a hospital right now. I guess, nobody can determine whether he's a survivor or not..

It came as a very big shock to us. Why? Because we are hardly 4 miles away from the airport!! Though we can't really see the take-offs and landings, we generally see the planes that have taken off or are about to land. We didn't hear anything though there was supposedly an explosion (the reason may have been that we were sleeping like kumbakarnas :-p. Also can't expect sound to travel 4 miles :-p). We came to know about the whole thing only when Sri turned on the morning news. I cannot really describe why it was scary. Maybe because we have started taking planes for granted. Maybe it is because our house is considerably near to the airport. Or maybe because every single person except one guy died!!

Speculations started immediately. Most probably there was a mechanical failure on the flight. There was no other thing that was possible. Only later was it discovered that the flight took off on a short runway when it was actually supposed to take off on a longer runway. The questions immediately was, "Was the plane directed to a wrong runway?" and "Did the pilot take off on the wrong runway though he was directed to the right one?".

The Lexington Bluegrass airport is one of the small airports in US. It was the final airport I landed in when I first came to US. It doesn't have too many runways, only 2 , in fact.

The runway 26 is the shorter of the 2 runways with a length of about 3500 feet and is strictly for small planes. Runway 22 is the longer and is about 7,000 feet long. The black boxes were recovered from the plane and it was deduced that the plane was cleared for take-off on runway 22. After interogations, it was also found that the runway 22 was the only runway lit. The runway 26 wasn't even lit. The conditions on sunday morning was a bit cloudy and dark, but shouldn't the pilot have seen the lights on the runway?

As you can see from the google map, the plane should have taxied from the terminal, taken the path shown by the blue arrow and taken off on runway 22. But right now it looks like the plane took an extreme left at the point where the blue dashes begin and tried to take off on runway 26. The size of this particular flight is such that it needs minimum 5000 feet of runway to take off. The momentum of a short runway was just not enough for the plane to take off and hence it resulted in a plane crash. But what was really running through the pilots minds? The pilot and the first officer are both experienced people, then how come they made such a costly mistake?

One thing that might have been a reason is the recent change of the path leading to runway 22. It seems until about a fortnight ago, the path was as marked by the green arrow. They recently changed it to as shown by the blue arrow. So for a pilot who has flown from this airport before, it would be a straight and then a left to the runway. But in this case, there was another left he had to take. So by the time he noticed that the runway is ending and the plane needs some more speed to take off, it'd have already been too late..

But experts are also arguing that the degree of turns that the plane has to make to reach the 2 runways are different. The plane obviously has instruments to indicate the same. So why wasn't it noticed? Was it plain over-confidence? Was it not enough sleep? Only questions, no answers. It is also found that the first officer was flying the plane. So the poor guy who's struggling to survive just maybe the one responsible for the crash!!

Now there are other reasons floating around. There was only one air traffic controller at the time in the airport and he was sleep-deprived :-p. Guess all the circumstances culminated in the crash. The Governor of KY has declared mourning and the US flags flying at half-mast remind me of this terrible accident each time...

Atleast the pilots would have known that they were going to crash. Imagine, the passengers would have been totally clueless. I have been on one of these early flights. Most of the people in US are so used to travelling in planes that they don't even look out of the window when the plane takes off (I still do!! I'm like a kid when it comes to take-offs and landings :-D), they just read newspapers or take a nap. So it definitely would have been instantaneous death without any knowledge of it whatsoever. The fight attendant wouldn't have had time to warn or help any of the people. Heck, she'd probably have been totally clueless herself!!

The thing I was sad most about was that 2 of the passengers were a honeymooning couple who had gotten married just the previous evening. A couple who were just looking forward to a new life together. There was also another couple who were on their way to their wedding. I don't know what to say. I feel like crying because I know how its like when you are on your way to your honeymoon. So many dreams, plans and what not!! I even saw the first couple's wedding snap on TV. They were looking so happy in it that it was kinda heart-breaking :(. Atleast they both died together :(. Not that the lives of the other people on the flight were any less important...

49 people died not very far from where I was. It did something to me. I remember the big air crash that happened in Bangalore airport more than 15 years ago. It was because of a plane landing way earlier. There were many killed in that too (Google tells me 92 people). I used to get nightmares after that. I remember this horrible one where a plane crashes into my home in Bangalore :(. I remember being scared of planes after that and my dad telling me that death is inevitable. It need not happen on a plane, it might happen even when you are crossing a road. Somehow the idea stuck to my brain..

On sunday when we were watching a bit of news, this bit of conversation happened between the news telecast announcer and an expert. The announcer asked him "Does this crash imply that its not safe anymore to travel in Planes?" and he replied "Definitely not. Getting into a plane is extremely safe compared to, say, getting into your car. There have been far lesser people killed on planes whereas tens of thousands of people are killed in highway accidents each year". That somehow brought a smile to my face. 'Cause it reminded me of what dad had told me years ago :).

Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes - Benjamin Franklin.


dinesh retorted...

It really was pretty sad ! But like you say, it's hard to predict or prevent these one off crashes ! And yeah, cars and drunken driving cause a lot more deaths than crashes every year. I am surprised it got a smile to your face though...doesn't that bother you when you get into a car everytime ? :)

What do you in Lexington ? I used to go to UK.

Manushyan retorted...

it is sad , i understand. but as ur father told u , death is inevitable.we have to expect said , death is a buffon which doesnt appear o the scene when it is expected or wanted , but appears when we least want it or expects it.

Deeps retorted...

>> Dinesh >>

Well, when I'm in a car, my life's in my hubby's hands and I trust him :)).

BTW I work in Lexington :).

>> Manushyan >>

Yeah I know, thats why I have this in my profile - "Death is the ultimate truth baby!!!" :).

Twisted DNA retorted...

Ya it is a sad accident. It was such a simple mistake, like taking a wrong turn when driving. It makes you think how small and immaterial human lives are, people could lose our life somebody else's small mistake!

mithi retorted...

wow...what a nice view to see on ur blog...i just logged in to say thnx for leaving comment on my blog....!
hope we visit each other blog more frequently to share common passions apart from HCF....


Deeps retorted...

>> Twisted DNA >>

Very true. Thats exactly what scared me in the first instant. The passenger totally trusted the pilot not to do any mistakes and he did!!

>> Ruchi >>

Sure :).

Shiva retorted...

ur blog is pretty amazing.. nice effort to keep ur parents and in-laws in touch with ur lives.. :)


Harish Suryanarayana retorted...

Disasters jerk us out of our lives and make us think of the inevitable question , Why ?

Deeps retorted...

>> Shiva >>

Thanks :). My parents read regularly and if there is no update for a while, I even get scoldings :-D :)). My in-laws read now and then :).

>> Harish >>

Yeah, "Why?" is the ultimate question...

Usha retorted...

I go through similar introspection and terror when tragedies like this happen and feel happy for littel mercies - seesm selfish but makes one appreciate ones blessings and life better.

mavinayanasa retorted...

nice writing. whatever has to happen, has to happen. no body can predict or stop it. isnt't it?

still, while reading your presentation i was totally involved. similar experience i too had during mumbai blast in 1993, 2006 and rain havoc during 2005.

birth can be predicted which is by choice but not dealth.

nice blog.


Deeps retorted...

>> Usha >>

Definitely. But the thing is we don't know what's death yet, maybe it is better than life. Who knows? We all stick to "Known devil is better than unknown angel policy" :).

>> Srinivas-ravare >>

Very very true. Aadre, you can't help wondering and speculating the sudden happenings around you..

Archana retorted...

The whole thing was so sad. Its so true - no one, absolutely no one can predict whats going to happen the next second with 100% accuracy. I guess all we can do is try to make sure that every second in our life counts in some way or the other :-)!

The Smiling Girl retorted...

Oh man.. this is sooo sad!
I can understand how it feels when something so tragic happens, anywhere.. moreso near to the place we stay!!

Deeps retorted...

>> Archana >>

I agree. Its totally unexpected and thats what makes it more scary..

>> Preethi >>

Yup, extremely sad..