Some people are very nervous flyers. For example, my mother practically needs sedation to board a plane, which is kind of ironic since she once worked as a flight attendant. I’ve never asked her why flying bothers her so much, since she probably knows something I don’t, and I really don’t want to find out.
For the most part, I’m okay with flying. Occasionally, I feel a little claustrophobic and could use some fresh air in flight, but I battle through it since I’m well aware of the dangers of opening a window at 35,000 feet.
I’ve also had a couple of very bad flights that made me consider Greyhound as an alternative means of travel. On one flight, for example, we took a very sharp drop in altitude in the middle of the dinner service. For the rest of that horrible flight, I was pretty convinced I’d be meeting St. Peter covered in lasagna. Another memorable airline journey was through a violent storm over Birmingham, Alabama. Lightning flashed around us as we bumped all over the place. Every once in a while, the pilot would come over the speaker and announce he was going to make “just one more attempt to land.” While we admired his spunk, I think the majority of the passengers would have been perfectly happy to go to Mobile. Upon finally landing (with my fingernails embedded in the armrests), we learned that there were lots of tornadoes in the area. That explained all the “turbulence.”
I’ve even experienced an Emergency Landing. There was no screaming or sliding off the wing on a bed of foam. Instead, our pilot calmly informed us that he was experiencing “instrument issues” and needed to land in Montgomery, Alabama. (What is it with Alabama?) Anyway, we didn’t learn until landing and spending a little “quality time” with the flight crew that the “problem” was that all the onboard computers shut down at once in flight. While Wilbur and Orville could have probably landed that plane no problem, our pilot found it a little tougher without computerized instruments. That flight had a kind of happy ending though. While I didn’t get to New York (where I was actually going) until 4:00 in the morning, I genuinely enjoyed myself bonding in the bar with my fellow passengers. Our rendition of Sweet Home, Alabama is surely remembered by the staff of the Montgomery airport to this day. Just for the record, I wasn’t drinking, but I belted out that tune just as enthusiastically as the rest of them.
Despite some pretty bad flights, I can’t even begin to compare with my in-laws’ experience. On a take-off from the West Palm Beach International Airport, one of the engines of their plane fell off!
I mention all of this because of the recent “mishaps” with Boeings’ new Dreamliner. In the past three days, different Dreamliner aircraft have experienced a fuel leak, braking problems, and an electrical battery fire.
Despite these issues, Boeing held a press conference in which it expressed “extreme confidence” in its new aircraft. All of these problems are just “teething pains” common in a new plane.
I mentioned this to my oldest son, and he reminded me that officials of the White Star Line said the same thing about the Titanic just before it departed the dock in Southhampton.
The good news is that these planes are supposedly fuel efficient and extremely comfortable. Except for possible oxygen deprivation resulting from an onboard fire (which I’m sure isn’t comfortable at all), the plane is supposedly amazing.
I hate to be a nervous Nelly about it, but I’m likely to be extremely wary if I find myself on one of these Dreamliners until they get the “kinks” out. I’m pretty sure the TSA doesn’t allow portable fire extinguishers in your carry on bag. That rules out any kind of proactive preparation on my part.
I guess I’ll just have to take my chances (and my Bible) on future flights. A Xanax prescription might not be a bad idea either.