TONY DIVER: The opposite of Icarus

Columnist Tony Diver ANL-140328-091912001
Columnist Tony Diver ANL-140328-091912001
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It’s that glorious time of year again. The time when us Britons like to baste ourselves in sun cream, squeeze on a pair of slightly-too-short shorts, clamber aboard a plane and escape the drizzle of our little island.

But this year, the thought of flying conjures a very different image in the minds of holidaymakers.

The commercial aviation industry has seen some of its worst ever tragedies in the last few months. In particular, I am referring to flight MH17, shot down over Ukraine by pro-separatist rebels.

And without wanting to pour another shower on the summer spirit, plane shootings are something we need to talk about – as well as the way we think about flying.

We take it for granted, but flying itself is an absurd idea. It isn’t a rational expectation of human ability – getting to you holidays in a metal box in the sky is just not a natural way we think of travelling. So flying at all requires us to trust: the pilot, the plane, the airline. You’d be lying if you said that you didn’t second-guess the last plane you were in.

And that’s why airline terrorism is such an assault on humanity. Because not only is a crash implicitly about the paralysing fear of falling, it shows us that we were right in questioning the safety of a plane. That there are people who – accidentally or not – can bring us down.

But what is saddening is that one of the greatest feats of human engineering can be halted by a dispute over nationalism.

That Putin’s funding of the rebels has changed the way we think about travel, and that whilst we pack our suitcases, there are people dying for a flag.

Icarus was burnt from above – we should be concerned with what is below.