Monday, May 23, 2011

Planes that go bump in the night

An hour and a half is a long time to think you’re going to die.

Amy and I flew back from Atlanta last night. We’d been there for the wedding of our first babysitter. Emily set the standard for all other babysitters and precious few ever measured up. She brought baskets of art supplies and always had fun games planned for her time at our house. Amy is the babysitter she is today because of Emily’s excellent example. 

The minute the plane’s engines sputtered to a start I took notice. When I was younger, I regularly got scared when we flew, which was often. My dad was a pilot for Delta for 30 years; planes and airports have always felt like second homes to me. Even with hundreds of take-offs and landings under my belt, I’d get anxious.  Dad would always remind me, “Flying is the safest form of transportation.” And the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve flown I’ve become a more relaxed passenger. But last night, when it sounded like the engines had metal flying around loose in them, my pulse raced a bit. I tried to concentrate on what Dad always said and I attempted to read my book.

The noise didn’t go away but I attributed it to our seats; we were sitting right over the wings so of course we’d hear loud engine noise. But when we barreled down the runway and the wheels left the ground I was sure we were going to slam back to the pavement – the sound intensified and the ascent was agonizingly slow. It seemed like a giant had his finger on the nose of the plane.

And then we dropped through the air – a totally normal occurrence, I realize, but by this time I was fully convinced the plane was doomed. My sweet child was sleeping next to me and I prayed it would be fast so she wouldn’t suffer. The wings dipped from side to side; again, totally normal, but reason had completely left my brain.

The entire flight was marked by drops and dips and the fasten seat belt light remained illuminated throughout. I tried to read my book because I didn’t want to alarm Amy. But with each little bump I became positive that my nightmare death scenario wasn’t going to involve a shark. It was going to involve AirTran.

That’s what I get for not flying Delta!  I thought, “If I’d only paid the extra $100 I’d be on Delta right now, not this off-brand upstart. We’re going to die because Delta didn’t match AirTran’s fare!”

Of course, we’ve flown AirTran many, many times and have had wonderful trips with them in the past. But I believe I mentioned the rational part of my brain rolled down the aisle, probably when we were somewhere over Chattanooga…

When we began our “final approach” to the Flint airport, it was raining and the plane wobbled around like some toy a toddler tossed down a slide. Our touchdown was hard and I completely expected the tires to burst from the force.  When we finally rolled to a stop I realized I’d been clutching Amy’s arm. Thankfully she was pretty sleepy and didn’t notice the look of terror on my face.

I know when my Dad reads this he’s going to shake his head and say, “How many times do I have to tell her flying is the safest way to travel?”

Maybe one more time, Dad.