Wednesday, February 23, 2005

some thoughts on flying

i love flying, probably because it's associated with my childhood. remember, i live rural midwest as i relate this. when i was little, my parents had a friend that had a private plane (my dad's best friend had been a ww2 bomber pilot and brought home a german bride). needless to say, she was not well accepted in this rural world that had just fought (at least mentally) a war against germany.

well, this man (jim) was my dad's best friend and his new bride was just part of the package as far as my family was concerned. when he came home, he bought a private plane. he took dad up in the plane one day and dad loved it. jim started giving private lessons, so my father quickly signed up. dad passed his test quickly, and we started flying around the area at least once a week as a family -- kind of like the old fashioned sunday drive. we could see what all was going on in the neighborhood (the 50 mile radius of where i call home), watch the progress of the strip mining company, spend time together, and just have fun.

after we had been doing this several months, my mother (the notorious worry-wart who we often tease that she would worry if she had nothing to worry about) realized that if something happened to dad while we were in the air, then we would probably crash. she signed up for lessons and got her own pilots' license. now that she was much more sure of our safety, we flew more often. we flew at least once a week, but some weeks 2 or 3 times, for no other reason than we had fun doing it. where we live, most people with planes had/have their own runways, although i have known people to set their planes down on the highways if it was clear and they thought they wouldn't get caught!

anyway, we flew for fun and we flew a lot. when i was 2 1/2, my oldest brother was killed while riding his bicycle. my dad knew my mother was not dealing with the situation well and it had happened right in front of our house, so he loaded us up in the private plane with his friend (my dad couldn't leave the farm in june) and sent us to colorado springs to spend some time with family. dad's friend flew us there, where family met us at a private air field. i was miserable the whole trip because no one told me dad wasn't going until the plane doors were shut. i was definitely a daddy's girl and was heart-broken to be separated from my daddy -- especially now. to calm down a distressed and very loud toddler in a private plane became a quick priority (probably before someone else in the family killed me!) so my mother told me that daddy would probably come to colorado springs and meet up with us there. to me, that meant that dad was on his way. my toddler mind had no way to understand that we were traveling much faster by air than he could by car, (but i also didn't know he wasn't leaving for several days!) so i spent the rest of the flight watching for blue/green (turqiose) cars on the roads below us. everytime i would see one, i would say, "mommy, do you think that's daddy there?" she would vaguely answer, "i don't know, honey." and left me to my game of watching for daddy, which occupied me all the way to colorado springs.

the weirdest thing as we landed in colorado springs was the presence of all these huge planes. we were like a gnat trying to navigate through a flock of geese headed south for the winter. except i felt like they were everywhere! it was really kind of scary, because in my world (the extensive explorations of a toddler) i didn't realize there were planes bigger than what we were in!

we spent a couple weeks there before dad came out and picked us up in the car. after we came home from colorado springs, we continued to fly around in the private plane very often and i always loved it. sometimes, i was allowed to steer, sitting in my dad's lap. as i grew taller and could see out the window on my own, i was allowed to steer from the co-pilot's seat. that's so much more cool than driving a car from dad's lap! we probably did this family activity until i was around 10 or 12, but then we had to quit because of the blood-pressure medication my father was taking. at that time, flying was no longer safe for him. we no longer had that regular family time activity to do together -- not that we didn't replace it with others, but this one was just so neat!

i never flew on a jet until i was 17, and i loved that too. best thrill ride around, in my opinion. i don't like having to deal with the other people there, though, as my early memories are of private planes! these other people want to take up space, climb over me, carry on too much luggage, climb back over me, spread their stuff out all over the place, snore, bring crying babies/toddlers, argue with their travel partners, party, are too heavy or too big for their seat (or broad shouldered) and hang over into mine, get grumpy, etc.

now i have an 18 year old son, 6'4" & 250#, and he's one of those people that i *hate* traveling with, although i'll make concessions because i LOVE him. we always have to request exit row seating for him, as he's just too big for the space provided. he can't wiggle once he gets in his seat and because of some previous daredevil injuries, he can't sit still for too long without rearranging. i wouldn't be surprised if others around us wouldn't like to strangle him by the time we get to our destination! sometimes, i want to strangle him myself by then! but i usually let him have most of my "space" and that helps a lot! i definitely don't want someone i don't know/love using up my space just because he or she is too big for their own, though!

we fly as often as we can, but unfortunately, that's not as often as the kids would like. there's a company near us called "powrachute" that makes what looks like "go-carts with parachutes" that you can fly. my son wants one of those so bad, but i'm glad neither of us can afford it. my son is slightly accident prone, so i feel like this would be flying but with the protection a go-cart would offer. they have a neat website and they set a world record each year at their "extravaganza" they host in september in columbus, ks. it's quite a site to see a couple hundred of these in the air at one time. and the extravaganza looks like a medieval carnival, complete with brightly colored tents, vendors, and lots of action. i've met many of the pilots and know the people that own the company, but many pilots/vendors stay at the hotel where i work part-time and i meet them there. in a sense, they're like bikers -- they're their own breed.

every time i fly, i am amazed by the mechanics of the activity, the awesomeness of the creations, the amazing technology that monitors/tracks all flights, the huge coordination between plane/terminal/ground crews. it's just amazing overall. now i'm not saying every flight is wonderful or that my luggage hasn't been lost, but in the grand scheme of things -- they really run a pretty smooth operation. in fact, if i could keep as close of track of my personal belongings as the flight business keeps of everyone else's stuff -- i wouldn't have to look for those missing items near as often! i don't think i've been on a car trip where i didn't lose something, and that was by our personal carelessness!

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