Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No Fear of Flying

Like Barbara Szala and many of you I sometimes feel I spend half of my life at 37,000 feet flying to client meetings. I have no fear of flying; my sole anxiety has to do with the airport itself, the mob scene and unending hassle. More about that in a bit.

For those of you who have never visited Kill Devil Hill in North Carolina, the site of the Wright Brothers historic flight in 1903, I urge you to do so if the chance ever arises.  What wonder has transpired in the century of aviation!  While I wasn’t there the day the brothers and their flimsy aircraft flew into history, I have experienced countless take offs and landings in my own time.  Do you remember your own first airplane trip?  Bet it was exciting for you just as it was for so many others and me.

My very first airplane trip took place back in 1951 during the Korean War. You have seen photographs and film footage of stoic paratroopers sitting side by side against the stark no-frills fuselage of a DC 3. You get the picture. In my particular case there were two tremendous differences: one, we were NOT going into combat and two, we passengers on board were so young and unknowing that we were oblivious to danger on a worn out charter plane. Even more important we were able to get out of the Deep South Army training camps to make it home for Christmas with our families. The old saying “youth is wasted on the young” really meant “we didn’t know what we didn’t know”.  In any case we made it north to New York’s Idlewild airport (now much enlarged as JFK International) in one piece. We returned south by train on New Year’s Eve.

My earlier flying experiences were certainly more lively than the near endless decades of droning along at 37,000 feet as a business flier. Nothing beat being an artillery spotter sitting behind the pilot of a L15 with just a belt across my lap and open sides to the left and right watching howitzer shells that looked as big as boxcars whistle past. Nonetheless there was a certain gentility to civilian flying, now long gone, that brings a smile to my face. Men dressed in business suits back then and the ladies wore gloves and hats for trips on the magic carpet. Still I do prefer the casual dress code of these times if we can somehow keep “causal” this side of outright nudity, at least in business class. Good times did roll here and there. I was aboard an Air Canada flight when they celebrated their 50th Anniversary. Those Canucks knew how to throw a party!

These are tough economic times for one and all, including the airlines. As is the case elsewhere a few professionals are now doing the jobs where many employees once covered the same bases.  By and large these men and women of the airlines are courteous and efficient in their attempts to bring a bit of sanity to the mad mad world of modern-day air travel. We can make our own journeys easier by understanding the multiple pressures on them and giving them our support.

1 comment:

  1. A medical situation with a passenger on board our United/Continental flight from Newark, NJ to Hamburg, Germany last week demonstrated the topnotch abilities of the flight crew to handle emergencies. The incident gave the rest of us a sense of security that we were in good hands on this 9-hour flight. Other than an announcement to request help from any passengers with medical background, the situation was dealt with quickly and privately without any disruption to the rest of the passengers. (btw, the gentleman with the medical problem made it to Hamburg without further crisis, and was taken off the plane first by medics.) It was nice to hear everyone thanking the crew for their sensible and sensitive actions during the flight, rather than just the usual "ba-bye".