Safety First

About Safety first

I hate flying. I love traveling. But I hate flying.

I’ve always hated flying. When I was twelve, I flew from Los Angeles to New York to visit relatives. I love the idea of flying. I loved the metallic, sleek, shiny wings. I loved the thrumming sound of the DC-6’s propellers . . . at first. After an hour or two of the twelve-hour flight, it became annoying. And even with only about 60 seats, it quickly became intolerably closed and claustrophobic. And those were the days when smoking was allowed on airplanes.

Today I still hate flying. At least there is no smoking. And airlines have realized that they are not restaurants and have stopped trying to serve restaurant food. A salad or a cheese plate is fine with me. My litany of complaints is probably the same as any contemporary traveler’s: time and uncomfortable seats, hurry up and wait everywhere, overpriced water on the other side of the TSA, connecting flights lead to either a panicked run or an interminable wait, the infinite and well-hidden caveats attached to the purchase of a ticket, and so on. Add a few for yourself.

But what really began this series of images was a tour of the Boeing factory in Seattle (Everett). The tour begins through mile-long underground passages where one is surrounded by gigantic, confidence-building pipes marked “asbestos.” An elevator sufficient for 50 people brings one to a balcony complex above the factory floor where one can see the airplanes being put together. At each stop, there is a series of informational placards – height, weight, capacity, and other statistics, of each of the planes being built. Inevitably, the last placard is about a plane crash and the number of deaths involved. Yet this is a good thing, claims the placard, because we have learned from this and made the planes even safer for you. I found this wonderfully twisted and spun logic simultaneously amusing and horrifying.

During my previous air travels, I was fascinated by the graphics on the “air safety cards” slipped into the pocket in every seat. The illustrative cartoons seemed to me so placid and clam even in the circumstances illustrated: a plane in terminal distress. These became the subjects of this set of prints.