Hop into any airliner these days, and it’s more than likely you’ll have stepped onto one made by Airbus or Boeing, the two largest commercial aircraft manufacturers in the world today. The next two titans of the airliner manufacturing industry are Embraer and Bombardier.
Now, let’s take a closer look at our big four. Airbus is a French-based European consortium, and Boeing is American. These come from two countries that also have a long tradition of making cars. True, that tradition is getting increasingly chequered of late, with almost every French automaker being neck-deep in trouble and the majority of the American auto industry getting an ignominious, publicly funded bailout some years ago.
Still, despite the (numerous) difficulties facing the French and American carmaking industries, at least they have an industry to speak of.
Contrast that with Embraer and Bombardier, who are based in Brazil and Canada respectively.
Some might argue the Brazilians build cars, but I’d counter that – doing a Jurassic Park, that is, resurrecting a dead model from an automaker’s archives (the Fiat Bravo), or making light commercial vehicles, doesn’t count.
As for Canada? Can you remember the last Canadian car you drove? Exactly.
Despite these countries’ somewhat less-than-stellar reputation (if at all) when it comes to making cars, we’ve come to place near-absolute faith in their airplanes, though not that we have much of a choice in the matter.
The alternative is taking the better part of a week, or even a month, to get to where you want to go via sea or rail.
You can be as paranoid as you want about air travel, but the facts don’t lie.
In 2012, there were 475 air traffic-related fatalities. Globally. In the same period, Singapore alone saw 7168 people killed on the road.
Those afflicted with a chronic fear of flying will point to how the batteries on Boeing’s vaunted Dreamliner can’t seem to stop themselves catching fire.
Or how there was the recent incident with the Asiana Airlines flight.
But take a closer look at those 475 air-traffic deaths, and you’ll realise that only a tiny fraction of them occurred due to mechanical failure.
The vast majority, including that ill-fated Asiana Airlines flight, happened due to human error. Which goes to prove that like guns, people kill people.
Closer to home (that is, cars), according to J.D Power’s fabled reliability survey conducted in the US last year, topping the large-saloon segment was an American car, the Buick Lucerne. It was followed by the Toyota Avalon and Chevrolet Impala, which would sort of imply that American cars are alright.
Which makes me wonder if all this talk about products that aren’t German or Japanese being unreliable is the result of vile slander.
I’ve been driving a French car for some years now, and aside from it having a particularly annoying habit of blowing tail-lights, the experience has been remarkably trouble-free.
And I’ve never had a bad experience on a French, American, Brazilian or Canadian airplane. Actually, wait – there was one bad experience, which happened several years ago on Xiamen Airlines, though that might have been largely down to the in-flight meal’s generous serving of mystery meat (but that’s another story for another time).