Thursday, 21 June 2012

Flying with hippie pilots

It’s coming up to the summer holidays and if you’re anything like me you'd rather eat your own arm than think about packing. Especially now that we have a little person in our lives who somehow manages to fill one and half suitcases just on her own - and that’s after some ruthless discarding and repacking. 

I find holidaying generally quite traumatic actually. Once we got on a long haul flight and as we sat there waiting for take-off (me panicking still because the industrial strength tranquilisers I’d brought back from the US - god bless America - had not yet kicked in), the laidback pilot announced that there was ‘a problem with the door'. Yikes! What did that mean? Did it not close? Was it going to fling open mid-flight? Were we all going to die? (Are you getting a sense of my paranoia yet?) 'Not to worry,' he went on, 'we’re just going to patch it up and we’ll be on our way.’ Yes, he said, patch it up! Was a hippie driving this aircraft? I took another pill.
In the end, take-off was all fine - or I assume it must have been but thankfully the pills had worked their magic and I was completely fuzzy by then. In fact they’d worked a little too well and I had to be forcefully woken up at the other end as we prepared for landing. And then desperately wished I hadn’t been. 

Steeling myself for landing is one of the worst bits of flying - there’s always the teeniest chance things can go wrong. So when our great lumbering boeing was literally inches off from touching the tarmac, and then suddenly put on a burst of speed and took off again, my panic went into overdrive. Were we being hijacked? Were the wheels not working? Were we going to crash into another incoming plane? Why the hell were we still in the sky and not on my beloved ground?  Were we all going to die?

Off to patch up a wing

Mr Bean was also bouncing around in his seat but for a different reason. ‘A missed approach! Never been on a plane when they’ve done a missed approach!’ He could barely contain his excitement and I could barely contain the urge to bash him over the head. 

Apparently the pilot had set down too far down the runway and wasn’t taking the risk of not having enough runway to brake. So instead here we were, the poor labouring plane groaning into the strong headwinds as the pilot did a long, painful circle before heading back down to land. Everyone did that awful clapping business when we eventually landed safely - as if the mighty captain had bravely steered us to safety. I kept my arms firmly crossed glaring at the poor flight attendants as if they were in cahoots with the hippie pilot who was determined to kill me.  
I swore I’d never get on a plane again. But after two weeks holiday Mr Bean eventually wore me down. He argued that as we were 10,000 miles from home and the only way back was trekking through deserts (I burn easily) or taking a month long cruise (not a fan of sharks) it was the only option. 

The thing is, I never used to be so pathetic when it came to flying. I used to love the belly flops you get when flying through turbulence and used to love take off and landing best of all. But my mother was a nervous flier. I used to hold her hand during flights and marshall her up escalators once she'd taken her pills. I really don't want Little Bean to learn the same lessons from me so I'm 'womanning up'. I can't promise I'll be taking part in aerial acrobatics or anything but I'm going to try to my best to set a cool and calm example. Even in patched up planes.


  1. What happens to us as we get older? When do we suddenly get so much more afraid than our younger selves? You're not alone! Hope you have a safe flight and manage to disguise the fear from Little Bean...most importantly have a lovely holiday!

  2. You're so right. If I think of some of the risky things I used to do when I was younger with no thought at all, I feel partly sick and partly impressed!