Archive for the ‘Flying’ Category

TAKING OFF MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A KID AGAIN

airbus-319

A US Airways Airbus 319

I don’t fly much.  I’ve taken to the sky a few times in the last couple of years, which is more than in the previous eight years combined, but I generally don’t travel much and when I do, it’s in a car with me behind the wheel.  With me in control.

My nephew, of whom I’m so very proud, graduated from Pitt this last weekend. Since I was so graciously invited to attend the festivities, I flew out there for a three day jaunt.  I had a great time, thank you, but I’ll admit that the events that held my attention the most throughout the weekend all involved airplanes.  The closest airport to me is Mitchell International in Milwaukee, and there are no direct flights with any airlines from Milwaukee to Pittsburgh so the entire round-trip required four take-offs and four landings.  We stopped in Chicago, at O’hare, on the way there… then flew to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh to catch another flight home.  This caused some minor amusement for me… as Philly is farther from Milwaukee than Pittsburgh.  Hee-hee.  So be it.

But like I said, I don’t fly much.  And although I am not really afraid to fly, I have found, in the past as well as now, that the longer I go between flights the greater the anxiety I feel for the act.  I still marvel at the fact that human beings can fly at all, let alone at 30,000 feet at a speed of Mach 0.78.  Sometimes I think it’s all just a grand illusion… or a trick… that planes are just advanced elevators or something.  Maybe once you board, an experienced ground crew just changes the scenery so that you think you’ve gone somewhere new.

Anyway, there have been several occasions — one this last weekend — when the plane is barely off the ground and climbing, maybe at an altitude of two thousand feet, where I have mildly freaked, my mind racing, thinking, “Holy Shit!  What the fuck is keeping us up here??!”

Of course, nobody can see my irrational thoughts, and I have a great poker face.  No one can tell by my body language or a look on my face that I nearly just shit my pants at the very beginning of a two-hour flight.  It’s now that I casually look about the cabin at the faces of those people that obviously travel all the time, because they’re already lost in a book, or an android-game, or they’re already asleep, as their gaping mouths are a tell-tale sign of slumber.  Asleep!  Already??  The damn gear isn’t even up yet and you’re already approaching REM?  I snicker.  No way.  That guy just shit his pants and he’s hiding it by pretending that he isn’t scared to death.  He’s got a better poker face than me.  Well done, fella!

Once we’ve leveled off I generally feel better.  Then the turbulence starts.  Tiny potholes in the sky.  Just where does our tax money go, anyway?  I’ve heard of turbulence being so severe that passengers have hit their heads on the ceiling.  Nothing like that has ever happened to me, in fact, I think I’ve been truly blessed on the flights I’ve taken, but a particularly moderate bout of turbulence on the way from Chicago to Pittsburgh caused a kindergarten-age boy across the aisle from me to exclaim, “Gee, the roads in the sky sure are bumpy!”

That’s right, kid.  I blame congress.

So what’s the worst part of the flight for me?  The part when we get back to earth.  Airplanes are built to fly.  And if you want to stop flying, then you need to alter the plane in ways that the plane doesn’t want to be altered.  You need to put the nose down for the gradual descent.  You need to reduce speed… a thing that seems like a horrible idea to me.  And then once you’re down, the flaps on the wings get into crazy positions and the engines reverse thrust and you pray that this monster of a machine will stop before it goes off the end of the runway.

Well, I pray for that, anyway.  Apparently, the guy that shit his pants at the beginning of the flight has just shit them again.  His eyes are closed and his mouth, agape.  What a wuss!

But not all of my childish feelings toward flying are negative.  I get the science for the most part… lift, torque, ailerons and wing flaps… but I’m always in awe of the engineering of it all.  Smart people — people waaayyyy smarter than me — found a way for an animal that can’t fly to fly.  To use an overused word, it’s awesome.  Awesome, as in, it inspires awe.  Only things like the science of flight should be allowed to attract the use of the word, “awesome.”  I feel like a kid again when I’m in a plane… and there are few things in life that do that for me.

Advertisements