Bar the odd grounding, these enormous technological advances help us take flight

America hasn't had a fatal crash on a commercial airline for four years

Share
Related Topics

As I stood there in the freezing cold, trying to pay for my car parking in central London by mobile phone - it would probably have been easier, and more appropriate, to apply for a mortgage - and getting cut off every time I started punching in my credit card number, I found myself suddenly channeling Basil Fawlty and raging against the way in which technology has made our lives more complicated and frustrating. What happened to the days when you could just put money in a meter, I asked, to the heavens?

By and large, however, I feel that the modern world suits me. Although I sometimes hanker after a simpler time when we had less choice, and it didn't seem to rain quite as much, I recognise that, in many ways, life works so much better these days. Those of us of a certain age often don't notice these improvements, while there's a generation growing up who expect, for instance, to be able to make a phone call from an aeroplane, or to have their entire music library on a machine the size of a matchbox, or to be able to watch their favourite TV programme on a Tube train.

But occasionally something stops you in your tracks, and gives you pause to reflect on how largely unheralded technological development has changed our lives. Such a moment was a captivating discussion on Radio 4's Today programme about the remarkably improved safety record of commercial airlines. We will have been vaguely aware that air disasters do not occur as often as they once did, but the figures are quite astonishing.

Globally, 2012 was the safest for air passengers since 1945 which, given the massive increase in the number of flights taken, is utterly extraordinary. America hasn't had a fatal crash on a commercial airline for four years, the longest period since the advent of the jet engine. And, by applying the statistics, a passenger could fly every day for 123,000 years before being in a fatal crash. Engines are more reliable - we see that with our own motor cars - and navigation and warning systems are more advanced.

Of course, there is no avoiding the tempting of fate in such a discussion, and for those who have a phobia of flying, the statistics are meaningless and unhelpful. If you have a deep-seated fear of something, no amount of rational explanation will change anything.

I often travel with someone who has to have a handful of Xanax, a few tumblers of brandy and an hour with a Paul McKenna CD before she'll get on an aircraft. I try to explain how safe flying is, and now I'll have a battery of facts to back me up. But I can't compete with her pharmaceutical armoury.

A clinical psychologist on the Today programme focused instead on the discrepancy between what the phobic feels and the reality based on the statistics. So Dr Jennifer Wild puts it another way: if you had cancer and went to a doctor, would you prefer treatment that was felt to be right, or one that was based on hard evidence? Cancer treatment? Now that's a whole other story of technological advancement...

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little