Boarading TK

On my way to Stuttgart to spend time with family.

It may surprise those who know me to find out that I am not a big fan of flying. I much prefer to have my feet firmly planted on mother earth. But…I also love discovering new places, meeting new people and seeing the friends I have made around the world. So flying becomes something to be endured, if not enjoyed…a means to an end.

Over the past 3 1/2 years I have done a lot of flying. With my home base in Vancouver, Canada and working in Istanbul, Baku and Abu Dhabi, this has meant numerous long-haul flights. I’ve also managed to do a fair amount of vacation travel, including 17 flights in 46 days last summer  (most of them being about 1 hour in length). You would think that meant I got used to it. In many ways I have, but in others….not so much.

Leaving Vancouver

Flying out of Vancouver on a beautiful sunny day.

Take-offs. This is the part I like least. I’m not sure when it started, but for years now I have a ritual for dealing with take-offs. As the plane speeds up and the wheels come off the ground I speak to my dad (who passed away many years ago). I visualize his big, strong, loving hands taking us safely up out of whatever city we are leaving; I picture the route on the world map; and then his hands taking us down safe and sound in our destination city. Lately I also add the universe, mother nature, my spirit guides and God to the conversation – but it is always dad’s hands that I picture. It helps get me through the ascent to cruising altitude. Speaking of cruising…I still don’t like it when the engines cut back from the power required to take off. There’s something about that cut in power that always throws me off. I remind myself every time that this is ‘normal’, that you don’t need as much power when you’ve done the climb and are coasting. Sometimes the cut in engine power is barely felt, sometimes it is more pronounced – I guess it depends on the pilot and air traffic.

Once we’re cruising I relax, and at times I even really enjoy it. When I think of all the flying experiences, there are some highlights that come to mind (not all of them good).

  1. While working for an art gallery I used to fly to France 2-3 times a year. On one of the flights from Vancouver to London I got really lucky. I couldn’t sleep, so I asked to go speak to the pilot (clearly this was before 9-11…). This particular aircraft (a Lockheed 1011) had a jumper seat behind the captain’s seat, and I sat there for a while, chatting with the pilot and co-pilot. About 90 minutes before landing the flight attendant came to get me because they were about to serve breakfast. I said my good-byes and the Captain said ‘maybe see you on your flight home’. I joked that I’d like to sit in the cockpit for take-off and landing. After breakfast was done, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted to go back into the cockpit for landing…Um, YES! It was great. We flew in right over Buckingham Palace. The view of the city was amazing. Now that doesn’t happen every day, and certainly not any more.
  2. On another flight from Vancouver to London the pilot came on the speaker system to tell us to look out to the left of the airplane as the northern lights were putting on quite a show. They were. Beautiful.
  3. Then there’s flying back to Canada from Europe, and seeing the sun set on the right of the plane, and darkness on the left side of the plane.
  4. There are times when you look out the window and it is simply beautiful. It could be blue skies and puffy white clouds. Or flying over the Rocky Mountains on a clear day. Flying over the desert and seeing a pop of green every now again as mother nature finds a way for trees to grow in the middle of the desert.

    Flying over the Canadian Rockies is always a favourite.

    Rockies 3Clouds

    Clouds Over Europe

    It’s almost like fluffy marshmallows – flying over Europe.

  5. Or flying at night and seeing lights below.

    Montreal Arrival

    Arriving into Montreal.

  6. That one time I was bumped up to First Class by Lufthansa on a flight from Frankfurt to Muscat. A girl could get used to that kind of pampering!
    Lufthansa 1st
  7. I loved seeing an animated safety video on Fly Dubai – and a curvy flight attendant at that!
    Air Dubai safety video
  8. And then there are experiences one doesn’t need to repeat – like an aborted landing. I’ve been through one. Not so much fun. We were flying into Istanbul. This is a city I have flown into many, many times, so I know the approach well. I see the mosque and the homes, and I know when we are about to touch down, I’m excited and happy to be back. I swear, the wheels were almost on the ground and the next thing I knew the airplane picked up speed and then gunned it. It was very dramatic – particularly given that there was sunshine behind us and we were heading into a dark rain cloud. After what felt like an eternity (and was likely only about 3 minutes) the captain came on to tell us that we were circling around to get a better approach. A better approach? The approach was fine, we were almost on the ground. I suspect there was another airplane in the way and the captain figured out that we’d run into it. Everything else felt the same as it always did. I have to say though, what I felt was the perfect combination of being completely freaked out, and completely calm – knowing that it was not my day to die. No. Don’t need to go through another aborted landing again…ever… Don’t get me wrong, if there was something off and the pilot knew that we wouldn’t have a safe landing, I’m happy he circled and came back again for a safe landing. It’s just freaky, that’s all.

I admit to self-medicating to help calm the nerves, and to help me sleep on long-haul flights. But really, it’s mind over matter and remembering to breathe. And as someone who is used to a minimum 5-hour flight (years of traveling between Vancouver and Montreal), I still find short flights “odd”. We’re already there? Oh, right, we are. Shortest flight so far was a 20-minute flight from Athens to Mykonos. That’s just crazy.

All the above said….I’ve now been in Vancouver for a month and a half…and I have itchy feet. It feels like it’s time to head out again, to take a deep breath and get back on an airplane. How fortunate I am that I can. Grateful!

Lufthansa champers

Cheers. Santé. Serefe. Saluti. Prost. Bon voyage!