Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Flying freaks me out

It’s not that I am afraid of flying, it’s the crashing part that scares me.
That rapid deceleration at the end of an unplanned landing can put a crimp in any trip.
I have never been crazy about taking to the wild blue yonder, although I have done it on several occasions.
The first time I was in a jetliner was on my honeymoon. We flew from Vancouver to Los Angeles.
The flight took around two-and-a-half hours, most of it through a storm.
“Oh, good, that will make the flight much more interesting than just sitting through a smooth ride for almost three hours.”
I had been in a helicopter before, and even flew my friend’s single-engine Cessna for about 20 minutes, but I was quite inexperienced at the mass transit approach to flying.
The problem was the turbulence. Every time the plane would bounce I would turn a slightly whiter shade of pale.
By the time we got to LAX I was almost transparent I had lost so much colour.
My wife, on the other hand, was looking out the window, chatting away and was as relaxed as if she was on the beach and not on the verge of becoming a screaming ball of fiery death.
“Are you going to eat your chicken?”
“Who can think of eating at a time like this? My life is flashing before my eyes and I have to admit, it’s pretty boring.”
It was also dark out which didn’t help matters. Have you ever seen the movie where the little gremlin guy tries to tear the wing off the plane?
I have, and let’s just say I was reliving that scene every time I looked out the window.
My wife told me to sit back and relax, every thing will be fine.
Isn’t that what Custer told his troops?
“C’mon guys, what could go wrong? You guys are a bunch of worry warts.”
I have heard that flying is safer than driving.
I have to question that line of thought. When my car breaks down – like if the engine quits or something – all I have to do is pull over to the side of the road.
If the engines on the jet conk out, the road is 40,000 feet below us. We might make a crater near a road, but that’s about as close as it will get.
We eventually landed in LA unscathed - much to my amazement. The return flight was on a beautiful sunny day and I was cool as a cucumber (that was strapped into a 20-ton flying death machine).
It would be 13 years before I was to set foot in a giant tube of winged terror again. This time I was flying to New York en route to Russia.
It was around four hours to New York from Seattle and nine from NYC to Moscow. Yippee, I could hardly wait.
The plane to New York was an older model and I thought I saw Fred Flintstone at the controls – not a comforting thought.
Shortly after take off I heard this loud, almost like a grinding sound and I knew the wings were falling off and we were about to plummet into a mountain.
Or maybe it was just the flaps being raised because the wings stayed right where they were attached.
On the way to New York, the flight was smooth as glass except for the parts where the glass had been violently smashed with a hammer.
A few times the plane would be sailing along then it would drop or bounce, depending on what type or air disturbance we hit.
Every time the plane performed this unplanned aerial manoeuvre I would practically jump out of my skin.
I felt like running up and down the aisle screaming, “We’re all gonna die. We’re all gonna die.”
Instead, I just sat quietly in my seat, looking around and thinking, “We’re all gonna die. We’re all gonna die.”
We landed in New York, kicked around the airport for about 90 minutes and then it was back in the air for even more fun and games a mile above the beloved earth.
It was over the Atlantic where I was the most nervous. I figured while flying over land if we had a problem we could land somewhere, but over the ocean we would just kind of go splash blub-blub-blub.
I have to admit by the end of the nine hours of air time my nerves had calmed quite a bit and I actually ate before we landed.
The best part about eating was the food stayed down - always a bonus.
By the time I flew home from Russia, my nerves had calmed to the point where taking flight was no big deal. I kicked back, relaxed, watched a couple movies and in general found the experience tedious, but not terrifying.
I couldn’t sleep on the plane however.
At 6’4’’ it is nearly impossible to get comfortable in a chair built for a Hobbit.

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