I’m on Television on Monday!
Last autumn, I received an interesting email from a woman researching an aircraft accident. She’d read my post on Northwest Flight 188 (the pilots who flew straight past their destination) and wanted to ask my opinion about the incident and how it compared to the Air India Express last year.
I started to mail back thanking her for her interest in my blog and explaining that I wasn’t a commercial pilot and that I didn’t know very much about the Air India Express incident but I would look into it and see how it compared to Northwest 188 if she wanted me to.
My boyfriend Cliff read over my shoulder and then snatched my keyboard away from me and said “You are not sending that.”
He rewrote it taking out everything that diminished my qualifications to talk about aircraft and stated that the two incidents were both clearly focused around fatigue.
“That’s just not true,” I said. “The Northwest flight might have been fatigue but we don’t have any evidence for that. I think they were probably playing World of Warcraft and lost spatial awareness. And besides, the Air India flight is clearly a CRM issue where the interaction in the cockpit completely broke down. It’s not similar to the Northwest flight at all. Actually, the Garuda incident is a much better comparison.”
“I thought you didn’t know anything about it,” he said and gave me the keyboard back.
So I started over, explained what I thought the critical issues were and how they related to corporate culture as much as fatigued. I followed up with key factors of the incident and telling her the questions that I thought she should be asking.
(I’m not usually that pushy but she’d made it clear that she was interested, I promise).
She phoned me and said that the producer of the show had read my mail with interest and he wondered if I would be willing to meet up and discuss the accident on camera.
I squeaked in response and then considered begging them to give me 6 months to lose weight first and then decided it served me right for not bothering with the diet all year. I ate another cream cake for courage and then finally told her I’d love to.
Friends recommended that I avoid stripes, patters, black, white, pale colours, and basically everything that I owned. I panicked for a while and finally bought a teal-blue blouse the day before and hoped that it didn’t show too much cleavage.
That day I appeared, windswept and red-faced, at a hotel conference room in London. My Tube had stalled and so I’d half-run down the street, painfully aware that I was five minutes late for my fifteen minutes of fame.
Bright lights and a big camera were already set up and there was a jug of water and a glass next to a comfy chair. I sat down and we started chatting. Next thing I knew, I was apparently ready to go and the filming started. Cliff commented that if I were a real girl, I would have insisted on getting to a mirror before they started filming. I probably look a mess!
The producer asked intelligent questions, making it clear that he understood aviation and knew the accident report inside and out. We discussed the sequence of events and I explained various issues that he had questions about. I also, unfortunately, had a quick go at explaining how a DME works. I spluttered utter nonsense for about three minutes before realising that I was talking bollocks and needed to shut up. If they show that bit, I’m really sorry and I swear I do know better than that, I just panicked.
That moment of confusion really helped: it reduced my desperate desire to please. From that moment on I took a moment to consider whether I could answer the question confidently and if not, I just said “I’m sorry but I don’t know.” It sounds silly but the experience made me more confident and I think (I hope) I came across as sensible for the rest of the discussion.
Although… I kept flipping my hair. I could feel myself doing it and thinking for gods sake Sylvia please don’t come off as a total Valley girl and then I would do it again. I did manage to stop for a short time and then the director stopped the filming and said “your hair is in your eyes, can you please pull it away” and I thought ugh, I just can’t win and flipped it out of the way again. I really, really, really should have had my hair cut before the event.
At the end, I finished explaining what had gone wrong and then I stopped. The director waited and then asked, “What happened then?”
“That’s it,” I said.
“You haven’t actually mentioned the crash at all,” he said.
Well, yes. I’d stopped at the point when the plane went off the edge of cliff. “I’m a pilot, I don’t like to think about it.”
Once he pushed, I was able to talk about what happened: the plane went off the edge, landed in the valley, broke up into three pieces, seven people miraculously managed to clamber out. It was interesting that it didn’t occur to me to even consider the aftermath and the damage until prompted. It was hard to talk about it.
The show is Aircrash Confidential 2 and it is available on the UK Discovery Channel on Sky. I don’t have release dates for the Discovery Channel in the US.
I haven’t seen “my” episode yet but it will cover three flights on a theme of Pilot Fatigue. It’s episode three and it will be on television on Monday at 21:00 (9pm) GMT with repeats on the 28th of Feb and the 4th of March.
I don’t actually have Sky. I don’t, um, actually have a television. But I am reliably informed that the Discovery Channel is available as a standard channel (520) and you can get Discovery HD on Sky+ HD. You can also view it on Virgin TV (channel 212).
Here’s the Discovery Channel TV Schedule at yourdiscovery.com for the show. You can see clips from last year’s season on their website too Aircrash Confidential at YourDiscovery.com (and you might be able to find full episodes on YouTube).
If you do watch it, then please be aware that the camera adds ten pounds and ALSO I have lost five pounds since then. So try to squint a little so that I look the right weight, if you don’t mind.
And let me know what you think! I’m holding my breath waiting to see it.