What Flying Is To Me...

Flying reader and airline pilot shares how, even on something as clinical and sterile as an airliner, he finds romance in flying.

Jumpseat Sunset

Jumpseat Sunset

I've been to a handful of parties in my life, and for the most part, they've all been rather staid affairs. Which is quiet ironic. You see, at most of these dos, I often run into people who tend to have the ideal solution for fixing the weakening Euro, rising inflation, ISIS, India's meek bowling attack, global warming and Shah Rukh Khan's retirement. Once those issues are dealt with it goes down the predictable, "So what do you do?" route.

Now, having an office at the pointy end of a 300-ton aluminium tube that does 950 kmph, 10 kms above the surface of the Earth does get some eyes to light up. But trust someone to burst the bubble. "What do you guys do anyway," he will smirk, "It's all automatic these days, isn't it? Gone are the days of real flying. There is no more romance left in aviation." "True I say," with a shrug, "but we are all half the men are fathers were," and move along.

But someday I would like to tell you what the romance is.

The romance is when you get to see day, dusk and night, all at the same time, from your office window.

The romance is when you depart on an overcast, gloomy, dark day, break out on top and realize the sun really does exist.

The romance is when you fly during a meteor shower and see so many shooting stars you run out of wishes.

The romance is when you check in at 37,000 feet, and whisper, "honey I'm home."

The romance is when you fly from Moscow to Houston — fifty years ago you would've had to do it in a spy plane and high enough to be out of range of communist missiles. Or when you fly across the Atlantic without batting an eyelid. Eighty years ago, they were giving rewards for this sort of thing.

The romance is when you fly across countries and realize there are no real borders that divide us. Except, when you fly over the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. And you see it lit up like a major street for as far as the eye can see.

The romance is when you fly over Europe on a clear day. Within minutes you've seen the Alps, the Eiffel tower and Big Ben.

The romance is when people tell you it's a small world, and having seen the length of the Pacific, you beg to disagree.

The romance is when you ride along the tops of stratus and you can tell you are really shifting. Even magic carpets don't ride this well.

The romance is when you speak to the same air traffic controller for the umpteenth time. You've never met him and probably never will, but you recognize him from his voice.

The romance is when you are cleared for a visual approach, and from that point on, it's no computers and no automatics. Just good old stick and rudder.

The romance is when you pop out of low cloud, and ahead of you lies three kilometers of velvet smooth tarmac, lit up like a Christmas tree.

The romance is when after a 14-hour transcontinental flight, you look back at your office and smile!

The romance is that no matter how prosaic you make it out to be, airplanes are still mankind's greatest achievement.

The romance is very much alive and kicking, sir. Your heart needs to be open enough to see it.

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