The airplane risk equation

By Sander Lutz

It has come to my attention, hopefully to the great concern of each and every one of you, that I may have a slight “issue” with neuroticism. Beginning with my childhood, an eye-opening period of running from hypothetical white sound-proof kidnapper vans (to the point of taking a different route home every day of the week to lose men who trailed me and took notes on my preferred day-by-day walking schedules), I’ve always over thought things to a degree that passes by semi-humorous, over “Oh, you…”, and even clearing the “embarrassing cocktail-benefit party story” zone to the point of becoming a legitimate concern.

To whittle my current conundrum down to a prevalent example, we move to airplanes.

Ever since, for reasons I now wish were thought through more completely I witnessed the movie “United 93”, concerning the plights of the third plane in September 11th, I’ve had this “thing”. Now and ever since the psychologically-moldable age of eleven, whenever I take a voyage through the skies, I check my ticket to make sure my flight won’t make an opportune movie title. In case this doesn’t make sense to you, and honestly it better not or else you’re in the same boat as me, here is a rare opportunity to delve into my thinking process.

United 93. Pretty good movie title, right? So good movie title means a movie will be made about the flight. If a movie is made about the flight, then the flight would be susceptible to terrorism, as movies are clearly only made about horrible, bloody accidents. Good movie title defined as: the Airline name and flight number combine into a smooth, flowing, marketable phrase (like United 93. Smooth. Flowing. Crisp.) So, by the transitive property (stay with me), Good movie title = susceptible to terrorism, and therefore Good airline name and flight number combination = susceptible to terrorism, which results in the equation Good airline/flight combination = I will die.

This equation used in a practical example: Last week I boarded Virgin America flight 182. Virgin 182. Marketable? No. “Virgin” can be easily misinterpreted in the mass media, and three digits is a mouthful. Every flight, every single flight I’ve been on for the last five years, while others around me are worried about if they left their toothbrush at home or if three ounces really means three ounces or it’s a loose interpretation, I am mentally surveying hypothetical business-promotion logistics for our flight’s crash, including news coverage, movie rights, and the climactic build-up/plot arc of the film. While they are worrying themselves over menial tasks irrelevant to the bigger picture, I am determining, nay reading their very fate, holding the truth on the paper stub in the palm of my hand.

In reality, there has only been on one occasion where I have been legitimately scared for not only my life, but those around me, that being the flight I took last summer while salmon fishing with my grandfather. Alaska Airlines Flight 049. Alaska 49. Of course, the only thing worth crashing into was the airport itself, but I could see a rogue, vaguely-good looking and just past his prime Jeff Bridges playing an alcoholic pilot from Juneau who just wanted to end it all.

Written by Sander Lutz. This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue.