MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! CABIN PRESSURE!

Do you know the feeling of being drawn to something and at the same time being repelled by it? I get it every time I watch Mayday! Air disasters! I don’t know what made me start watching it, but it soon became an addiction. Fires, hijackings, air crashes, bombing and other flight related disasters and emergencies are not for the faint of hearts. So why do I keep watching it?

There are few episodes that stuck in my memory. One of them is episode Fight for your life – an employee with a grudge tried to hijack federal express flight, armed with hammers and a spear gun attacked crew of three and seriously injured them all. It was a real miracle that the pilot managed to land. Life imprisonment was too good for the aggressor! He destroyed the lives and careers of three human beings just because he wanted money for his daughter’s education.

But my favourite air disaster (I know that an adjective ‘favourite’ seems an odd choice here) is Hudson River Runway. In 2009 US Airways Flight 1549 hit a flock of Canadian geese minutes after the take off. With both engines out of order the captain and the first officer landed the plane safely on Hudson River. All the passengers and the crew survived.  I cried like a baby when this tragic geese encounter had a happy ending. That is why it is my favourite air disaster. The enormous experience and cold blood of the crew saved the lives of the passengers and they all lived to tell the tale.

Clint Eastwood’s Sully came to theatres in December 2016. The film recounts the disaster and the investigation that followed. All the reviews I read about the film were high in praise. Moreover, viewers described Tom Hanks’ portrayal of this heroic pilot – Chesley Sullenberger as superb. It was a sufficient recommendation for me, because when Tom Hanks is involved in a film, it is a must-see.

However, I went to the cinema not knowing what to expect. I knew how the story ended – everyone survived the flight and the investigation proved that the captain did everything he could to save 155 souls – there were no mistakes on his part. And I was afraid that there would be too much pathos and American patriotism with the American flag flapping majestically in the wind (I have no problems with patriotism, but some American films take this theme to the extreme). The air disaster is tragic enough, there’s not need to play on viewers’ emotions too much.

I must confess I spent 96 minutes hardly breathing or blinking because I didn’t want to lose even a tiny second of the film. I loved everything! Aaron Eckhart’s rendition of co-pilot Jeff Skiles is simply excellent and Tom Hanks’ authentic interpretation of the quiet and humble Chesley Sullenberger deserves a standing ovation. The crash scenes are highly realistic – you are under the impression that you witness the genuine air disaster. The whole film is beautifully balanced and masterfully put together. I am impressed with Clint Eastwood’s craftsmanship as a director. His Sully has become one of my top 10 favourite films of all times.

There are many air disasters with a happy ending, but unfortunately the number of sad endings is much higher. However, each plane crush reveals the machine’s weaknesses  and enables the experts to work hard on perfecting the air crafts and making them safer to use.

It is a thought I always try to cling to when I get on board. Flying is not an activity I am happy to experience. I suffer from a severe travel sickness and I get claustrophobic in small spaces. So you can imagine what goes through my mind when I am inside a plane. To help me survive this ordeal I always carry an mp3 player to distract me and give my mind something to concentrate on. Music sooths my anxiety and makes journey slightly more bearable.

Some time ago I discovered a perfect stress reliever to listen to while flying – a radio sitcom written and created by John Finnemore. It is called Cabin Pressure and is about the adventures of MJN Air and its crew of four: Carolyn Knapp-Shappey (Stephanie Cole) – the owner and a stewardess, First Officer Douglas Richardson (Roger Allam), Captain Martin Crieff (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Arthur Shappey (John Finnemore) – Carolyn’s son who is a steward. There are twenty-seven episodes – each named after a different city and starting with a different letter of the alphabet.

The story follows the day-to-day working life of the crew and their constant struggle to keep the business afloat.

Douglas Richardson used to be a captain but got himself into trouble and was kicked out of job for smuggling. Now he has to play the second fiddle in this slightly dilapidated plane, run on a very tight budget. Douglas is a smooth talker and he can talk his way out of any trouble. Carolyn always counts on him to help her in a time of crisis.

Martin always wanted to be a pilot.  He knows the rule book by heart and reads it in his free time. He would be a much better captain if the level of his confidence was just a bit higher. His lack of self-reliance induces Douglas to tease him relentlessly.

Arthur is a bit dim-witted person who describes everything as being ‘Brilliant!’. Nothing can dampen his enthusiasm and optimism. His sunny disposition and the constant need to help everyone can be sometimes tiring, especially for his boss and mother – Carolyn Knapp-Shappey.

Carolyn got a plane as a divorce settlement and manages the company as best as she can. However, handling three male individuals can be sometimes tricky. Her budding love affair with Captain Hercules Shipwright is often a subject of First Officer’s jokes because Douglas gets very competitive when Herc is around.

Douglas and Martin’s endless bickering, Carolyn’s strange relationships with her ex-husband and new boyfriend are hilarious and make this series one of the best radio comedies. On top of it you get to learn quite a few things about aircrafts and flight regulations.

If you get nervous on planes and want to escape anxiety, Cabin Pressure might be a solution to your problems. Laughter releases endorphins, endorphins make you cheerful and ecstatic. And in the state of euphoria nothing can be scary. Not even a flight in a metal tin with wings.

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