Plane to Las Palmas

Degrees and probabilities: As with many disasters, I found myself glued to the television yesterday (and putting up with some very bad coverage) as the story unwound about Spanair flight JK 5022 from Madrid to Las Palmas that has left (at last count) 153 dead, making it the worst aviation disaster in Spain in 25 years. It is odd when a story like this touches you closely: I live in Las Palmas and although it is a medium sized city, it is on an island where everybody seems to know one another personally or through a friend in a sort of an abbreviated six degrees of separation experiment. I have also taken that flight with Spanair while going back and forth to the peninsula… Last night, while lying awake in bed, dancing through my head were hazy and equivocal probability scenarios: if Spanair flies to Las Palmas from Madrid three times a day, that means 90 flights a month, what were my chances of being on that flight?

They can’t handle the truth: While watching the story unfold on Spanish television, the numbers of the dead slowly increased from seven to twenty to forty-five, until they started ‘confirming’ the twenty six survivors yesterday afternoon. Spanish broadcasters insisted that they did not have anymore information. Strangely, while the Spanish press was reporting around fify dead, English newspapers such as the Times or the Telegraph were already declaring that the death toll would be around 150. Does the British press have access to information that the Spanish don’t? Or is there some sort of secret censorship office?

In search of tact: In an absolute low moment, Radio Televsión Española (the Spanish state broadcaster) showed an interview of an asshole complaining on live television how Spanair would not get a hotel for him because his flight to Bilbao was cancelled during the commotion. In another regretful instance, officials said that victims of the flight incurred trauma incompatible with life; one might think that a better choice of words like “fatally injured” -or even the old standby “died”- might have been more appropriate.

Update: In an attempt to become the Stray Dog Café’s Corporate Stooge of the Day, Spanair CEO Marcus Hedblom affirmed that he will not ground the airline’s of 36 MD-82/83 that make up over half of Spanair’s fleet. The safety of the planes has been put into question as recenty as March this year by the FAA.

Update 2: A Spanair MD-87 returned from the runway before takeoff after a fuel problem was detected last night.

On Vespa Mechanics

For anyone who owns a vintage Vespa (or a vintage anything for that matter) a good mechanic is worth his weight in gold. Vespas–not unlike their mechanics–are temperamental bikes at best and, as they age, become grumpy and delicate. Continue reading