Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder
While reading the news about the jet landing at JFK without one of its rear landing gears, I began remembering why I hate flying. Oh, it’s not the way you’re herded onto the plane like cattle nor is it the incessant delays which always make you miss your next flight - it’s a real fear of flying that has me always hesitant to get on an airplane. I know, flying is a lot safer than getting into my car and driving but I still get sweaty palms and a white-hot fear coursing down my spine when I get inside a plane.
I used to fly quite a bit when I was working and a lot younger. I had no fear of death, like crashing in some Nebraska wheat field while the farmers stood by and watched. My fear began when I was eight months pregnant flying back from New York. I was in an L-1011, a huge jet with three rows of seats, a real aeronautical marvel. I happen to look up and see smoke coming out of the lavatory. Strange, I thought, then the shouting began as the stewardess was trying to drag the person out of the small cubbyhole. It seems the woman had gone in there to smoke, heard the alarm and had gotten scared. So what did the brain trust do? She threw the lit cigarette into the paper wastebasket, catching the plane on fire. The fire was extinguished but it seemed there had been some damage to the wiring that connected to the rear landing gear and they were having trouble. The lady next to me, her first flight, asked me if we were in trouble. I gave her a look and said not to interrupt me while I was praying. We had a shaky landing and I wobbled off the plane. This was my first incident but I continued to fly.
The next incident was when my husband and I were flying into Beckley, West Virginia, on a puddle jumper. You know the one – they wind the rubber band just before take off. Any way, Beckley’s airport is in between two mountains, a tricky landing. We made our approach and about five feet from the ground a cross wind hit us, rolling the plane. Thank God for the pilot! He shot that little plane straight up and avoided a crash. When we finally landed, the pilot walked through the plane and jokingly said, “That scared me. How about you folks?” I muttered “No s#*^ Sherlock.” I wobbled off the plane. That was my second incident.
Then, my husband, my son and I were flying back from San Francisco. I was sitting at the back of the plane while my son and husband were at the front. It always amazes me that they can’t put a family together on a plane. I was just over the wing, crammed into the middle seat between two men, when the guy by the window mumbled that he had never seen that before. With no compunction, I crawled into his lap to stare in the direction he was looking – the wing. It had about a six-inch hole in it. I frantically began hitting the flight attendant button. The woman came sauntering up, probably sure that I just needed a blanket. I kept my voice low and told her to look at the wing. She did, simply nodded and went to the front of the plane. The co-pilot then came back and looked. He said nothing and went back to the front of the plane. The man in front of me started saying in a loud voice that we were going to crash. I promptly picked up the in-flight magazine, rolled it up and hit him in the back of his head. I informed him not to create a panic. Our airspeed dropped and we started our approach into Atlanta. No waiting around, we went straight down. After a safe landing, I walked to the front of the plane where my husband and son were waiting. Hubby commented that was sure a quick landing. I told him I needed a drink and wobbled off the plane.
For years after that I flew intermittently with the help of my doctor but I continued flying. Last spring, my son and I decided to visit relatives in New York so we hopped on a plane headed to White Plains (the same airport the jet was headed to this weekend). We were flying into the worst tropical storm force winds that the East Coast had seen in years. The pilot made his approach to White Plains but had to pull up at the last minute. People around me were throwing up and crying. My son, the rock, was reading and listening to his I-Pod. No problem there. We finally landed in Hartford, Connecticut, miles from our destination. Delta said thanks for flying with us and dumped us out there. I again wobbled off the plane.
So you see, after all these years of wobbling off a plane, I developed a healthy fear of flying. Every noise and every bump has me clutching the armrest in a death grip. Each incident ended without a problem but I remain fearful. And yes, I know, no one wants to fly with me – why take the chance?
Do you have any flight stories to share? What do you like or dislike the most about flying?