Flying : Like it or Loathe it?
Airplanes became part of my life around three years of age. With arms spread out as wings I would run around the garden playing hocker hen hips. It took my parents a long time to discover that my new game started as a result of my childhood awe of the new Fokker Friendship which had flown in to the airport of the small town in which we lived. My first flight as a child was in that plane and it was a rough flight as we had continual air-pockets bouncing us around. I needed the paper bag for the entire trip.
Flying from then was almost fun. It always meant that we were going on holidays. I’d enjoy looking out the window at the scene below. In those days children and many adults had a guided tour of the cockpit, visiting the pilot and seeing the vista open out in front without impedance. It was a white fluffy wonderland.
A sense of anticipation accompanied my first trip to Europe and made it bearable despite the boredom as I travelled economy in the days before the individual screens. Luckily I like aeroplane food. After that first flight consequent ones were tedious. Thirty hours from departure to destination became increasingly harder to bear.
Then the trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. One of the tyres blew out on take off and the pilot decided that a belly landing was the safest way to land. Until we neared LA none of the passengers knew of the problem. On being told there was absolute silence in the cabin. Not a sound was heard. White faces and white knuckles were evident. The hostesses instructed us on the position we were to adopt for the landing whilst the pilot flew in never-ending circles using excess fuel. The landing was superbly executed, the fire crews doused the plane with foam and a resounding cheer for the pilot resounded, the first uttering heard since we became aware of the situation.
Then I flew in a number of small planes, often. These were nerve-wracking to say the least. The eight seater islander was the worst. If you weren’t lucky enough to sit up front with the pilot you crammed in the back with mainly local, scared passengers and a whole heap of manioc and kava roots. Scared has its own peculiar smell like bad BO with an added edge which combined with the earthy smell of the cargo and aviation fuel odour made the flight memorable but none too enjoyable. On a rainy day it often rained inside the cabin as well as outside, another aspect which decreased my courage.
I, of course, had developed a fear of take-offs and landings and it was much worse in these small planes. In the Islander and the DeHavilland Otter (the other 22 seat plane on the route) every air pocket was felt. One particular day we flew out of Tanna heading to Vila via the island of Erromango. The visibility was non-existent. We flew from Tanna within, it felt, touching distance of the ocean. The island loomed up ahead of us and the pilot had to quickly lift the plane to avoid the trees and mountains. He had three attempts at landing that day before managing a successful one. The whole time I was saying “don’t do it, just keep going.”
After this time flying on the air buses and the like are pure luxury. I like airline food, I like the individual screens which show the latest films, I loathe the length of flight and the lack of sleep, I dislike takeoff and landings but I love getting to my destination.
© irene waters 2014
Thanks M.R for this new writing prompt. I’m a bit late but finally got there.