On the Fear and Fascination of Flight

1 02 2013

I don’t like airplanes, never have.

Well, ok I do have some fascination with them. My daddy is a private pilot. His daddy was a civilian pilot and I… I know enough about planes to get me back on the ground safely if my pilot (and co-pilot when applicable) were to suddenly find them selves passed out, heart-attacked or otherwise incapacitated (which just might mean I have a bigger problem on my hands.)

I do not all together hate the experience of flight. My family has actually collectively owned a little two-seater Cessna for well over two decades. It is in this plane that my daddy learned to fly. It is in this plane that my grandfather use to take me flying. It is in this plane that my daddy scared the crap out of me, on purpose.

I am afraid of heights. Actually, if you want to get technical, I’m not afraid of heights, nor falling from them. It is only of the guaranteed impact I’ll experience falling from said height of which I am a little trepidatious . I’ve heard it said before that short people like to stick close to what they know: the ground. And measuring in at a giant 5’2” (when I stretch,) I couldn’t agree more.

Due to the aforementioned you can imagine how much I was not amused when my dad decided he would try and freak my out by intentionally stalling our single prop airplane somewhere over Talledega county. I could have died and though I was going to. He didn’t tell me what he was doing. He just did it. Next think I know the motor is dead and the propeller is slowing to a halt right in front of my eyes. In movies when this happens the plane immediately drops out of the air and spirals into an atomic fireball on the ground. I learned a lot about lift and thrust that day.

Though I have flown in smaller aircraft countless times, I have only flown two commercial flights in my life. The first I was too young to remember but my momma assures me it happened. The second was my flight (round trip of course) to Italy. The sensation of flying is not particularly appealing to me. I do not like the floating weightless feeling that bottoms out in my stomach. I am also prone to pretty bad motion-sickness. However, I will never forget having breakfast with a first class view of the Alps.

Italy 2 027

Beautiful huh?

This whole post came about because my best friend was flying back to Hawaii after a visit to the states. Just like how my family has tracked my dad’s flights online I decided to watch her second leg from Texas to Honolulu. As the landscape of America crossed under her glowing green plane icon I tried to imagine what the view might look like. I of course have never flown over the western United States. Shoot I’ve never been more than 15 miles west of the Mississippi River so my entire imagined “flight was nothing but conjecture I’ve pieced together from postcards and video documentaries. I have a good imagination though so as the green splotch plodded on-wards it cheered my Saturday stuck on the fitness ball.

After much consideration I’ve come to realize that I don’t exactly hate flying. Recently Daddy and I took to the skies again in the Cessna. My stomach hardly flipped, I enjoyed the view (and reminiscing about my grandfather,) Daddy didn’t try and freak me out and even if he had I would have had my wits about me enough to realize he would never do anything to cause us danger. This should have occurred to my younger self but I’ve not been known as the most trusting sort so and have freaked on more than one occasion (which is why I didn’t learn how to swim till I was 12, another post another day…) Anyway here’s one of me and Dad cruisin’ around


A recent photo of Daddy and I flyin’ in the Cessna

That day I watched my fears turn to fascination. For the first time in my life I was able to experience a high altitude without being overwhelmed with the fear of falling. Irrationality and what-ifs took a back seat and I was able to enjoy the moment. I was able to have a great time with my Dad while doing something he loves,  it was pretty awesome.

I see a lot of travel in my future. Some of it might involve cars, trains, buses, motorcycles, horses or other  ground (or sea) worthy means of transport. But I see a decent amount of flight involved as well. ( I like to think this also involves a hot air balloon at some point in time.) I’ll still have to work around the whole motion sickness business. But where as before the thought of sky travel would have triggered anxious thoughts, now I just have two words to say…

Bring it.





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