Lynn Dike

Flight of fancy

2007-10-18 12:13

Lynn Dike

I have a small fear of flying, not a huge phobia; just enough to make my stomach do a back flip as the plane taxis to the runway. Well actually my fear is not really of hurrying along at 900kms per hour 33 000 feet above the earth, but more of coming to a sudden and unexpected violent stop, otherwise known as crashing.

Because to the best of my knowledge, in the immortal battle between a shiny metal tube hurtling along at a vast speed through the air and the hard unyielding ground, the ground has never lost.

I know how planes fly; I fully understand the physics of it. But the irrational side of my brain just doesn't get how an aeroplane weighing so many tons can get off the ground, and unfortunately the irrational part seems to rule the roost.

The statistics say that there is only one fatal accident per two million flights, and in fact more people are killed falling out of bed than in plane crashes. I know you're far more likely to be wiped out in a car crash on the way to the airport, but it just doesn?t feel like it.

Control freak

Maybe I'm a control freak and don't like it that somebody else is running the show, even if that person is a highly trained professional. It's not like you can saunter up the aisle, knock on the cockpit door and kindly tell the pilot to stop the plane because you want to get off.

With this approach, the only way you're getting off the flight is in handcuffs and the rest of the poor passengers would have to spend the next three days sitting in the plane parked on the edge of the runway, furthest from the terminal building while they find and remove your luggage from the hold.

On a flight, I can't help but listen intently to the plane's engine noises. And if the pitch changes ever so slightly I look around and wonder if anybody else has noticed that it sounds like one of the engines just fell off. Strangely enough nobody else ever seems unduly concerned, except of course when they notice the brunette in 17A who is looking around with crazy eyes.

So I'm off to Calgary for Christmas to visit my sister. And Calgary is just about as far away from South Africa on the planet as you can get; with no direct flights. The journey takes half your normal lifespan, many hours in transit, at least two airlines, 14 planes and an albatross. Let's just say that if Phineas Fogg had included Canada on his route around the world, he would never have made it in 80 days.

Going global

Actually, although I hate local flights, which are all about going up, cruising for 47 seconds and coming all the way down again, I don't mind international ones as much.

All except for the Friday night flight to London, where the whole world and his dog are on the plane and they've bought half the contents of their house along for the journey. I always think we're never going to get off the ground. And it is not helped when the pilot announces that we're really fully loaded, so we will be flying lower than usual until we have burned off enough fuel to lighten the load and ascend a little.

"Don't worry if the ground seems really close," he says, "As we'll be flying about a metre off the deck until we get somewhere near the Mediterranean." Aarrghh panic!

What I love about international flights is all the goodies. Meals, drinks, entertainment, people on call to cater for your every whim, those little packages of necessities, and socks! Airline socks in hideous colours fascinate me. They must be the greatest reproductive prophylactic known to man. I assume that people who join the mile high club must whip them off before even attempting to get frisky.

I always take them home and then wonder what to do with them as they're definitely not fit for human consumption - even my cat views them with horror. But since I like to get my money's worth, I feel compelled to pinch them.

Even with the pleasure of hideous socks and a lovely destination at the other end, I still don't ever feel that comfortable on a flight. And this tends to bring out the psychotic babbler in me, especially during take off.

So if you ever have the mischance to sit next to me on a plane, I apologise that I'm prattling on like a lunatic, just hold my hand and pretend that you're listening.

Send your comments to Lynn.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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