I’m not a good flyer. Let me be honest with you now. I am not a good person to have in an aeroplane beside you if you happen to be scared shitless. I’m just not.
It isn’t that I’m curled up in a ball saying Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus Oh Jesus.
I’m not doing that. Indeed, I might even be completing the crossword as the pilot hits that button marked FULL POWER. but my every nerve-ending will be fully attuned to what’s taking place behind that door at the top of the aisle where those ultra-cool guys sit, in full control of all our lives while smoking their Rothmans and practising their eyebrow-twitches.
How’s my jaw-line, Dirk?
Pretty damn good, Brad.
I don’t fucking like it.
I don’t like the way the plane roars down the runway at maximum thrust and I don’t like the way we suddenly leap into the sky, all of us together, a bunch of complete strangers, thrust together for the next hour or two or three, although to be honest with you, there’s only about ten minutes when we feel fully united, unless, of course, the flight is between Poland and Ireland, in which case the plane will be full of screaming babies in both directions. I like Polish people, but babies of any nationality, not so much.
Why am I afraid? Simple. I’m afraid because that’s the natural state of all living things unless they happen to be utterly stupid. It’s how nature works. Being afraid equals being alive.
When I fly, I realise two things.
First, this aircraft is at the pinnacle of design and its pilots conform to the best possible practice.
Second, these fucking things crash.
There’s no comfort in somebody telling me that flying is statistically the safest possible way to travel. All I want to know is this: how safe is flying when we slam into the planet?I’m glad that the cabin crew have stopped that ludicrous charade of trying to tell us about the yellow jackets and the oxygen masks when everyone is ignoring them and reading their books instead or playing with their smart phones like I’m doing. We all know that the yellow jackets have only one function — to find the bodies when we crash in the sea. Don’t be giving me that shit, Ryanair.
I don’t like flying because I have a good understanding of the underlying physics and you’d have thought that this would be a positive thing but it is not. I look out the small window – so shaped to avoid metal fatigue and thus to avoid the fatal crash of the De Havilland Comet – and I see the wing flexing.
Am I thinking, This is a natural response to loads imposed on this flexural member?
No. I’m thinking Jesus Christ we’re all going to die!
It’s not rational. This I understand. It is entirely outside the realms of rationality, just like homeopathy and chemtrails, but when I find myself at the edge of fear, that’s how I roll, though unfortunately, that’s just taking off.
You see, when I take off, all I can think of is when we’re going to land.
Last week, I had to take off and land a couple of times and you know, being me, I pride myself on knowing the details of the technology. That’s just me. It’s boring but there you go. I like to know how the aircraft is designed and built. I like to know about the engines. I understand all about relative velocity. I know that planes crab as they come in to land. I realise that the entire process is overseen by an incredibly clever computer-controlled system.
Does any of that make the slightest difference when I’m strapped in as a powerless passenger?
Of course not.