For some people, fear can create a business opportunity. Patrick Smith, for example, makes a living out of answering questions about an activity that many people are afraid of, namely getting on an airplane. A pilot himself, Patrick Smith’s Ask the Pilot column on the online magazine Salon.com has become very popular in the United States. When asked, he says that some of the more notorious questions he gets are about airplane toilets, for example: “Do crews empty the contents of the toilet over people’s houses?” Another curious question is: “Do pilots shut off the air conditioning to make the passengers go to sleep?”
More seriously, many people are worried about airport security. Patrick Smith says, “I think we have come to a point where we have to admit that there’s never going to be a really perfect airport security system, and you have to accept at least a small amount of risk. Meanwhile, confiscating scissors and army knives and small metal objects from people has nothing, basically, to do with security. Yet that is what we’re spending most of our time doing, focusing on the perception of security. In other words, the more you’re inconvenienced, the safer you must be, which is really ridiculous. In fact, it may be just the opposite, and concentrating on these irrelevant things, you’re wasting time and resources, instead of actually trying to solve the problems that are at the root of terrorism”.
Other people are worried about particular routes or airports that are supposed to be “more dangerous” than others. Smith says that “dangerous” isn’t the right word. It’s true that some routes or airports are more complicated, and require more attention than others, but pilots normally like that kind of thing; it’s a challenge, and that’s what they’re paid to do.
READING COMPREHENSION1. Write a summary of the text in English, including the most important points, using your own words whenever possible.
- The text is about Patrick Smith, who has a column in an on-line magazine in which he answers people’s questions about air-travel. Some of these questions are about things like airplane toilets or airconditioning. But most people ask about airport security or the danger of different routes and airports.
2. Find words or phrases in the text that correspond in meaning to the words and definitions given here
- a) earns a salary: makes a living
- b) danger: risk
- c) taking someone’s possessions (by an authority): confiscating
- d) made uncomfortable: inconvenienced
3. Complete the second sentence of each pair so that it has the same meaning as the first one.
- a) Patrick Smith is a pilot. He writes for the on-line magazine Salon.com.
- Patrick Smith, who is a pilot, writes for the on-line magazine Salon.com.
- Patrick Smith, who writes for the on-line magazine Salon.com.,is a pilot.
- b) “Do crews empty the contents of the toilet over people’s houses?”
- Some people asked if crews emptied/empty the contents of the toilet over people’s houses.
- c) Concentrating on these irrelevant things, you’re wasting time and resources.
- d) Some routes or airports require more attention than others.
4. Answer the following questions in your own words.
- a) According to Smith, what sorts of things make people afraid of flying?
- The things that make people afraid of flying are/ whether the airport is safe or not/ airport security and the danger of some routes and airports.
- b) Why does Patrick Smith think that it’s a waste of time to confiscate things like scissors, army knives and small metal objects from people at airports?
WRITING5. What is your favourite means of transport? Why?
- My favourite means of transport is the airplane, because it can take you to far-away places in a very short time. You would probably never go to America or to places like Singapore or Australia if you had to travel by ship and spend weeks on the journey. Travelling by plane has certain disadvantages, of course, like having to wait for long periods of time in airports, especially when there are strikes, and also having very little room in the airplane, which is very uncomfortable on long journeys. But I really love it when the airplane takes off and lands.