From The Publisher

May 28, 2018 Edition

Big in the news this week is the Boeing 737 that went down in Cuba, killing 110 people. There but for the grace of God, go I, because I have had some scary moments flying into and out of Cuba. Cuba’s excuse for the poor maintenance of the plane, (it didn’t take long to get that established, maybe about 12 hours after the plane went down), is they can’t buy good planes because of the decades long US embargo.

Well, that explains a lot. I can remember taking the plane between Cancun and Havana shaking, rattling and rolling all the way. (The plane, not me). I can remember watching a screw rolling to and fro on the uncarpeted floor with every lurch of the plane. Worse, it happened two trips in a row and I had to wonder if it was the same errant screw. But maybe that was a positive sign, as if it was, it obviously wasn’t important to keeping the plane in the air.

Another bad omen for last week’s tragedy in Cuba was just last year the plane was barred from entering the country of Guyana. Just what condition does a plane have to be in, to be banned from a country like Guyana? Surely Guyana’s standards can’t be so very high.

Cubans go to Guyana a lot because they do not need visas and goods can be bought there that are scarce or nonexistent in Cuba. Which brings me to the next near miss in a life seemingly filled with near misses.

Costa Rica had a similar situation when I lived there. I owned a small hotel so I needed a lot of stuff I couldn’t get in Costa Rica. There was a brisk business between Costa Rica and Panama and the daily flight would come back so overloaded with everything from refrigerators to toasters that the aisles would be completely clogged. First they would herd us all into our seats. Then baggage handlers would start packing the aisles floor to ceiling with boxes. I don’t know how the plane got off the ground and I would be dumbfounded that the stewardess would even bother with preflight evacuation instructions.

It turns out that the plane that took the header last week in Cuba was piloted by a Mexican crew that was already sanctioned for stuffing baggage into the bathrooms. (I wonder if the Costa Rican crew ever thought of that? We couldn’t get up to go to the bathrooms, so who knew?) The plane was leased by Cuba from a budget airline out of Honduras but no Cuban crew knew how to fly it so they subbed that out to Mexicans. So now we’ve got a 40 year old US jet owned by a cut rate Honduras company run by Cubans and flown by Mexicans. Gee, what could go wrong?

I lived through my Cuban and Costa Rican flights on dumb luck, no doubt about it.

And should I push my luck and fly around another third world, fourth rate country? I think not. I would like to go to China but you hear about those Chinese planes falling out of the air all the time. It’s a big country and the only way to see the high points in less than a year is to fly and I can’t stay that long, as I don’t think I would like the food. I can only go as long as a suitcase full of peanut butter will last me. Maybe I can train around. I hear they have high speed trains, what could go wrong?