Thursday, April 24, 2008

On that fear of flying ...

All my flights are booked for the weeks ahead and I reached that point where I remembered I don't really like flying ... not at all however, I may have found a cure.

Coming home from work on the train tonight, I was reading Danziger's Adventures by the interesting Nick (I love his tales of travel) and he described landing in Jalalabad, Afghanistan back in 1989:

Above the jagged peaks of the Hindu Kush the war seemed a distant nightmare, but not for long. We seemed to have only just reached our cruising altitude when the captain turned to receive a signal from the navigator. Still at 22,000 feet the captain lowered the landing gear, put the plane into a 45-degree controlled dive descent and extended the air brake foils downwards. This was the moment for which I had steeled myself. I felt the perspiration on my forehead and a bead of sweat trickled down my neck; my stomach was doing somersaults.

At 12,000 feet we were in range of the Stinger surface-to-air missiles. As we hurtled towards Jalalabad the Antonov felt like a spaceship re-entering the earth's atmosphere, or a flying coffin. The pilots and navigator peered through the cockpit windows nervously, alert for the tell-tale glow of a Stinger's solid-fuel exhaust. Each time the engine pressure changed, my heart skipped a beat. Captain Hamid glanced at the altimeter that was in near free fall. We were descending at a jet fight's pace with no hint of an airport below us. At 10,000 feet the blacked-out airport came to life - its lights were switched on for three seconds. At 5,000 feet the pattern was repeated for the pilots to navigate by. We were four hundred feet from the runway when a searchlight on the back of a truck positioned at the end of the runway was illuminated. The runway bore the number 13.

Few words could describe the emotion I felt on landing safely at Jalalabad. Pilots flying to besieged garrisons such as Khost and Jalalabad received one extra dollar a flight to supplement their $30 a month salary, enough to purchase a dozen eggs. The crew of the Antonov that had brought us were hoping to make a further round-trip flight to the city before daybreak.


It put things in perspective some.
I have 6 flights over a 6 week period but none are on an Antonov landing in a war zone ...

6 comments:

Jack said...

I used to love flying, but as I have aged that love has slowly but surely diminished.

Di Mackey said...

I love traveling so I guess I have to come to terms with the flying thing, Jack.

Flight in a war zone helped put things in perspective a little ...

furiousBall said...

Flying definitely isn't what it used to be. I dread it now.

Di Mackey said...

Ummm guys, where are the comforting words?

Manictastic said...

Flying with American airlines isn't always fun, so I've heard by recent data. But European aircrafts are still quite pleasurable. It's just that period at the airport that kinda sucks these days.

Just make sure you are not, and I repeat, not flying to Heathrow. Worst. Airport. Ever. I've got enough stories to tell, and I've only been there twice.

Di Mackey said...

Heathrow ... I was thinking I might do what I had sworn I wouldn't do, and catch the Chunnel train when I go over there for book photos some time this year ... big dramatic SIGH.