Saturday, August 05, 2006


I hate that moment, just after take off when having cleared the runway the pilot throttles down his engines and the aircraft dips, that moment of freefall where you stomach tells you your falling and some animal part of your brain kicks in with a jolt of adrenalin. I always look at the stewardess, look to them in that moment to see how they react. I figure they, of all people, would know if that dip was somehow different, if something in that moment told them that we going to carry on falling and hit the wasteground beyond in searing flames and a tangle of metal, pre-prepared airline food and someone else's baggage.

There seems to be something in that moment. A reminder.

Getting onto a plane is altogether too easy. A familiar and easy routine of checking in, security, buying bad coffee and magazines you never normally read, the vicarious thrills of duty free shopping and luxury brand concessions hinting at an age when air travel was exotic and exclusive, the inevitable middle age woman in some sort of nautically themed outfit at the perfume counter. Humping your gear onto the plane, stowing it, hoping you don't get some nut sat next to you.

You can see the studied indifference of some people, reading newspapers and thrillers or brick sized spy novels, as the engines power into life at that slightly hysterical pitch, shrugging off the surge and noise with apparent ease. I close my eyes and repeat half remembered statistics and when that moment comes, a sense of surrender. It's the only moment in a flight that you realise that your actually flying, outside of those seconds it's just travel, that slightly dislocated time between leaving and arriving but in that instant, your flying, a moment of delight and abject terror.

I asked a girl I met at party who was a flight attendant (she'd appreciate my correct nomenclature there, though I still like the 70's overtones of stewardess) if flying still held any fear for her. I was expecting her to say no, and then hit me with some good stories of failed engines, lighting strikes and drunk pilots.

"Every time, I mean, absolutely every time I fly", she took a drag on a cigarette, "I can't remember a time when something hasn't happened that's made we want to start screaming "get me off this fucking thing, we're all going to die", actually, probably about twice a trip, fuck, now I think about it why the fuck do I even still do it?"

1 comment:

Barbara said...

As an x flight attendant ( or hostess as we were called in the 70's in NZ) I can totally relate to this. I keep a close eye on the crews reaction's the entire flight (when I'm not saying Hail Mary's!).