Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Madam Florence Nwachukwu, mother and grand mother from Nigeria boarded a Lagos bound Arik Airlines flight from Port Harcourt, South - South Nigeria on a bright Sunday morning. It was all drama throughout the one hour flight. The elegantly dressed old woman was apprehensive of heights, and what is more a height of some 33,000 feet above sea level is some height to deal with. Added to height, her being encased or enclosed in a capsule like looking flying objects that is sometimes at the mercies of the vagaries of turbulence. She was rightly scared.

During the one hour flight she was tethering between fright and outright panic. In the process she nearly threw up. She complained of shortness of breath and not hearing properly, all symptoms of first time flyers. To save the day, a kind hearted lady, a younger woman stepped forward and joined mama on her seat. The sympathetic woman spent her time by mama’s side during the course of the journey. And so it was a huge relief to madam Florence Nwachukwu when the flight touched down at the local wing of the Muritala Muhammed International Airport, local wing (MMA 1).

Prior to her flight mama had experienced increased anxiety and sleepless nights at the thought of travelling by air. She had looked for every opportunity to postpone her journey, or at best travel by any other means except by air. Her fears and anxieties are justifiable, given the spate of missing aircrafts on our airways.

Dennis Bergkamp was one of the greatest football players of our time. This Dutsch soccer wizard was a European champion with his country The Netherlands (Holland), as well as a winner of the English Premiership with his club Arsenal. His football artistry was celebrated by all football lovers the world over. He scored goals from seemingly impossible angles, and created opportunities out of nothing. Such was his success and fame on the field of play that he became the toast of football fans around the globe and envy of fellow strikers, he became a nightmare to goalkeepers who knew that Bergkamp will surely score against them in 90 minutes of football action, it does not matter when, it could be at the tail end of proceedings, when they were about to heave a huge sigh of relief. Such was the fear, envy, love, admiration and praise heaped on this legend by all for his unusual out of planet earth talent and performance.

But there is something Bergkamp could not conquer. One thing that sets him eternally apart from other great soccer stars like, Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Roberto Baggio, David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Kanu Nwankwo, Austine Jay Jay Okocha, Rivaldo, Eric Cantona, Carlos Valderama, Gabriel Batistuta, Ronaldo; to mention just a few. He could not conquer the fear of flying. Dennis Bergkamp has a morbid fear of flying. Unlike mama Nwachukwu who took steps to conquer her fear of flying, Dennis Bergkamp has not done so.

When on international engagement, either for country or club, he will rather travel by road or train or any other means than risk the fear of flying. He would set out early to keep such international engagements. He never ventured into travelling by air for any reason, be it business or recreation.

Florence Nwachukwu and Dennis Bergkamp are just 2 of the numerous people with means to travel by air, but chose not to do so. They would rather travel by road or any other means. While it is true that the financial cost of travelling by air may have prevented some, in reality it is the fear of flying that prevented others. Such ones can easily relate to you all the unfortunate plane crashes that have occurred in Nigeria and beyond in the last 15 years. Such ones concluded that travelling by air is riskier than travelling by other means, while in reality and, empirically the opposite is the case. Whereas the chances of being involved in an air crash are about one in 11 million, the chances of being killed in an automobile accident are one in 5,000. Statistically, you are far at greater risk during your car ride to the airport, than when flying, you are far at lesser risk when flying, than when driving an automobile, especially with the condition of our road networks in Nigeria. What is more, annually, over 50,000 lives are lost to road crashes worldwide, compared to the few numbers of lives lost during air disasters.

Fear of flying has contributed in a large measure to passenger turn out at our airports. In a nation of over 150 million populations less than 10% of the population travel by air, that is, only some 10 million people. Hence, the urgent need to step up our campaign to persuade and encourage more people to patronise our airlines. To re direct more travellers to the airports for travelling rather than by bus terminals and unsafe road networks. The more people travel by air the more a critical sector of the tourism industry, airlines will grow. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to ensure that more and more Nigerians imbibe the culture of travelling by air. Stakeholders should embark on aggressive enlightenment campaign on the many benefits of travelling by air, so that by 2011, we can clock 30 million Nigerian frequent flyers. Sure when you travel by air aside safety you also save time, when you travel by air you equally save energy. You get more done within a limited time and reach more places in a short period of time. Make it your aim to make your next journey by air.

No comments:

Post a Comment