broadsideblog

Posts Tagged ‘flying’

Weeping In Seat 6D

In behavior, life, travel on November 19, 2011 at 1:16 am
you are an airplane II

Image by sternenrauschen via Flickr

Oh, my. I am so not fond of turbulence. Is anyone?

Came home this week to New York after a fantastic five days exploring Chicago, flying on small regional jet over the Great Lakes, a 90 minute journey. My flight there was easy and comfortable.

Not the return.

We were warned before takeoff it would be a rough flight, not just for some of it, but all of it. Gulp. When it’s that rough, whatever alcoholic consolation I might have chosen would have probably bathed me at some point. So I desisted and did a lot of deep breathing. I read every single word of the New York Times Book Review (even the kids’ books) to keep myself distracted.

Then I just lost it and started weeping, feeling like the biggest damn baby in the world. Some guy was snoring through it. The poor man in front of me turned around to see what was happening and I apologized. The steward asked if there was anything he could do. I apologized to him but said, truthfully, no.

The plane bucked like a bronco. There’s nothing you can do, so a control freak like me is not happy at such moments. I also know, thanks to a friend who’s a commercial pilot, that they almost always — domestically — have two or more choices of altitude to move into to avoid or at least minimize the chaos. But we didn’t, as the pilot regretfully informed us when we landed.

I was the last off, trying to gather my wits and get my pulse rate down. It was the second-worst experience I’ve had in the air — the longest I’d felt such turbulence was a 10-hour flight from Taipei to San Francisco in 1994. At hour five, the lane shook like mad for about an hour. Flight attendants were told to stay in their seats and not move.

That left me really rattled, which is tough given how much I love to travel to places very far away. All I can do when the plane starts shimmying is try to stay calm and know that pilots really are doing their very best to keep us all safe.

How about you?

Are you a brave bunny in the face of turbulence?

Or (cringes in embarrassment) a blubbering one?

You Won’t Believe Who Sat Next To Me On The Plane!

In behavior, business, life, love, travel, women, work, world on September 29, 2011 at 2:56 am
Departing Toronto Pearson

You never know....Image via Wikipedia

I received an email last week from my very distant past.

A young girl was traveling from a Canadian city to a European one with her Dad while he was to speak at a conference. We were airplane seatmates with an ocean to cross and many hours to fill.

It was March 1980, and I know the exact date because I was 20 and about to begin a life-changing four-month solo trip through Portugal, Italy, France and Spain.

This week, she wrote to me — having seen my New York Times wedding announcement, thanks to her Dad — despite her current job in a dangerous Mideastern location. How cool to be remembered, and fondly, and to re-establish a connection. For I remembered her also very well.

My mom met the King of Belgium on one of her flights and I shared one journey with Canadian celebrity Rick Mercer, although not sitting beside him.

Her email made me remember a few other intriguing in-flight seatmates:

An assistant coach for the Toronto Argonauts and a team member, his thighs as thick and solid as tree trunks, on an Air Canada flight from Winnipeg to Vancouver. I was as intrigued about life in the major leagues as the coach was about the life of a writer.

A devastatingly handsome Welsh engineer, azure-eyed, deeply-tanned, living in Khartoum, flying from Dublin to Bristol on Christmas Eve to visit his Mom as I was flying there to visit mine. Instead, smitten, we ran off together for a few days driving the foggy hills and valleys of Wales.

The gentle physician on my flight from Newark to Vancouver last year as I faced the hideous task, without any family help, of putting my mother into a nursing home once I arrived. The man, who turned out to know a colleague of mine, trains other doctors in how to care for the dying. He offered powerful words of advice as we began our descent.

On a flight from Minneapolis to New York, my seatmate was a senior executive for a television network. I mentioned an idea to him that I had for a show — and he liked it enough to give me his card and ask me to pitch him. I’ve since assembled some of the necessary pieces, so we’ll see what happens.

Who has been your most interesting airplane seatmate?

When and where did you meet? Did you stay in touch?

Canadian Student Makes Aviation History With Flapping-Wing Plane

In business, design, History, science, Technology, travel on September 23, 2010 at 3:32 pm
Ornithopter Flight - July 08, 2006; Registrati...
An earlier protoype….Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a video of a plane you’ve never seen before — one that, like a bird, flaps its wings.

The 94-pound ornithopter flew on August 2, the invention of University of Toronto Phd Todd Reichert. (My alma mater!)

From the Montreal Gazette:

Todd Reichert, an engineering graduate student and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, accomplished the feat when he flew the aircraft “Snowbird” for 19.3 seconds on Aug. 2 at the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ont.

The 42-kg plane made from carbon fibre, balsa wood and foam, travelled 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 km/h during the flight.

“Our original goal was to complete this sort of, original aeronautical dream, to fly like a bird,” said 28-year-old Reichert on Wednesday. “The idea was to fly under your own power by flapping your wings.”

The four-year project, a brainchild of Reichert and student Cameron Robertson, was worked on by 30 students, including some from France and the Netherlands.

The plane, with a wingspan of 32 metres, was powered by Reichert, who pedalled with his legs, pulling down the wings to flap. He had to endure a year-long exercise regime to bulk up on muscle and lose nearly 10-kg so he could fly the aircraft.

I live to travel, love aircraft and have visited Kitty Hawk, N.C., the site of the Wright Brothers’ first short flights 107 years ago. Wish I’d been there!

More details here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

My Ten Favorite Things

In antiques, business, design, Style, travel on September 7, 2010 at 8:10 pm
Closeup of silk-upolstered gilt Louis XVI Rhin...
Image by mharrsch via Flickr

In no particular order:

My Canadian passport. It’s nice to have a whole other country with quality, affordable healthcare and education.

My green card. Which is now, in fact, green. It allows me the freedom to live and work in the U.S., affording me wider opportunities than my beloved, albeit much smaller country of origin.

French-made crutches. For the first time in nine months, I am pain-free while using these, because I am not placing pressure on my arthritic hip. These crutches are everything you could possibly want: light, comfortable, waterproof, thickly padded. If you ever need to buy a pair, here’s where I found them.

Viactiv calcium chews. Any woman who has to gulp down fistfuls of calcium pills every day knows what a pain they are. These chocolate-flavored cubes give you all the calcium and Vitamin D you need in a quick, easy, tasty bite.

Braun juicer. Perfection. Mine is more than 20 years old and I can’t imagine a better design: place the half-fruit you want to juice, press down. Done!

Louis XVI reproduction dining chairs from my favorite catalog, Wisteria. Simple, elegant, comfortable. The style and color mix easily with a wide range of other designs.

Maja soap. Created in 1921, these round, olive-green bars of Spanish soap last forever, and smell divine as they do.

Hesperides soap, made by Fresh, and sold at Sephora stores. The scent is crisp, clean, citrusy. The Cote d’Azur in your hand.

Marvis toothpaste. Tart, strong, not slimy or sweet. Made in Italy, with a gorgeous package.

Open Skies. I rarely evangelize for any airline, (who could?)  but you have to treat yourself to this one, just once. Take a 777 that seats 300 — and reconfigure it for about 80. Now add seats so wide you can easily tuck your leg beneath you. This all-business-class carrier offers real food served on china. Good wine in a glass. To die for!

What are some of yours?

Enhanced by Zemanta

The World’s Ten Best Airports

In business, cities, design, travel on August 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm
Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris
Charles de Gaulle airport. Image via Wikipedia

Pack, rush, stand, wait, take off shoes. Flying, so much fun.

Do you notice the airports you travel through? Here’s a recent list of the world’s top 10, which includes Paris Charles de Gaulle (which, built in 1974, looks like a cartoon idea of the future with all its tubes) and Rio’s domestic airport and Dulles, in D.C.

Here’s my top 10:

1) Santa Barbara, California. Tiny, red-tile-roofed. There are pool houses larger. Charming, cute, feels like vacation.

2) Mae Hong Son, Thailand. The only sound you hear is that of temple bells from the Buddhist temple across the street. The only airport I’ve ever flown into where you can walk right into town.

3) Vancouver. The architecture is spectacular — lots of glass, waterfalls, totem poles inside and out. One of the very few airports that actually makes specific reference to where you’ve just landed. The approach is also fantastic — the Rockies, the ocean, not to mention all the huge log booms on the water. I also love their use of YVR as its name — every Canadian airport code starts with Y. (YUL is Montreal, YYZ is Toronto. Go figure.)

4) Seattle. Think about it — when do you ever notice, in a good way, what’s at your feet? I’ve flown through this airport a few times and marveled at what lovely materials they chose for the flooring. Not to mention the inlaid bronze salmon inserted randomly. One of whom carries a briefcase.

5) Toronto Island Airport. You can wing into this one if you fly Porter Air from Newark. It’s set on a small island from which you take a ferry for about 1 minute, then a ten-minute taxi ride to downtown. The best way to see Toronto’s dramatic skyline.

6) Cuzco, Peru. OK. I admit it. I remember nothing of the airport but my immense, weeping gratitude that I saw it at all, after a hairy, scary descent on Faucett Air. (now defunct.) Think of a sewing machine needle threading up and down through cloth. That was us, trying to find a clear bit of air between many large mountains.

7) Shannon, Ireland. I love any airport that immediately gives me a strong sense of place. Landing in the west of Ireland, you look down over an impossibly beautiful patchwork of green, hundreds of small fields ringed by low stone walls.

8) Bastia, Corsica. Like Galway and Mae Hong Son, the landscape is at the edge of the airport. I remember seeing sheep within a few hundred yards of the runways.

9) Charles de Gaulle, Paris. Although many hate it, it is saturated with happy memories for me from my year living in Paris on a fellowship. From there, I flew out, or back, from Montserrat, England, Istanbul. I loved that CDG became “my” airport. Easy access to central Paris on the RER.

10) Westchester, New York. My home airport. It’s impossibly crowded but small and easy to get in and out of. I love that we walk across tarmac into the planes. You can sit in the restaurant and watch planes taking off and landing. I love being able to get to an airport in 20 minutes.

What are your favorites and why?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Steve Slater — Hero!

In behavior, business, travel on August 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm
JetBlue Airways logo Category:Airline logos
Image via Wikipedia

If there’s a popular hero right now, it’s Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who hit his last nerve, cursed at a plane full of passengers and fled, beer in hand.

My retail memoir has a chapter devoted to Customers From Hell. I always had a running list of the brutes, morons, divas and princesses who made our lives behind the cash-wrap toxic and wearying. It took a lot to make my top five, but there was — sadly — plenty of competition.

We live in a country where the rich see the rest of us as peons, weird little creatures scurrying beneath their feet. Outtamyway! The income inequality is growing while millions of others are losing their homes and jobs, with no idea how they will find a new job or home or pay their most basic bills.

I saw this princess-iness firsthand while selling T-shirts and ski jackets to the wealthy shoppers in my suburban area. Their sense of entitlement was relentless and anyone who dared oppose it does so at the risk of losing their job.

I was in a fabric store the other day and shared war stories with an employee there. We all have war stories! She is in her 60s, elegant, calm, helpful — and told me that a young woman who couldn’t find what she wanted (but could not even describe it) snapped her fingers at her. Then, still unable and unwilling to tell the associate what it was she looking for, complained to management that this employee was unhelpful.

If this behavior was occurring anywhere private, sharp words would be exchanged and the offending diva put neatly in his or her place. But, no, when it’s public, the worker has to suck it up and the offending party can safely revel in their temporary power.

Pathetic.

Slater faces criminal charges. His profanity offended many people. His reaction was intemperate.

But every single person working in a service job knows exactly how he felt.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Skip Flying (Even Without Volcano Fears) And Really See The World

In travel on April 21, 2010 at 9:55 am
Train entering a Circum-Baikal tunnel west of ...

Image via Wikipedia

Loved this op-ed in The New York Times:

Airplanes are a means of ignoring the spaces in between your point of origin and your destination. By contrast, a surface journey allows you to look out on those spaces — at eye level and on a human scale, not peering down through breaks in the clouds from 35,000 feet above — from the observation car of a rolling train or the deck of a gently bobbing ship. Surface transport can be contemplative, picturesque and even enchanting in a way that air travel never will be.

My girlfriend and I recently set out to circumnavigate the globe without the aid of any aircraft. Along the way, we took the Trans-Siberian Railway across the wilds of Russia from Moscow to Vladivostok, and drove a car through the empty doomlands of the Australian outback. These journeys take less than half a day if you go by plane. Each lasts nearly a week when you stick to the ground. But taking to the air means simply boarding, enduring the flight and getting off at another airport. Going our way meant sharing bread and cheese with kindly Russians in a shared train cabin, and drinking beers with Australian jackaroos (we’d call them cowboys) at a lonely desert roadhouse. These are warm, vivid memories that will stay with us forever.

Think of the trans-Atlantic flights you may have taken. Do you remember anything about them? (Turbulence, bad in-flight movies and screaming children don’t count.) Because flying is an empty, soulless way to traverse the planet, the best flights are in fact the ones you forget immediately after hitting the tarmac.

Now, imagine floating across the Atlantic on a ship. Do you think you might enjoy those days of transit — the joys of a starry night in the middle of the ocean, or a round of drinks with new friends as you look out across the stern railing at the glimmering water — and hold them in your memories well after your vessel made landfall?

Fellow True Slant writer D.D. Cook wrote, back in January, about  his cross-country train trip.

I’m pretty evangelical about travel — my Mom and I share the fantasy of true wealth being a deep drawer filled with pre-chosen tickets to places we haven’t even thought of into which you’d dip your bored hand, then go! — and especially about non-airplane locomotion. I love trains. My Dad loves buses. I once dragged my horrified high-end sweetie onto a series of buses in Mexico (we all know how horrid much bus service is in the U.S.) and showed him the deluxe travel, complete with movies and clean comfortable seats, first-class carriers offer there.

(Although, and we have a the photo to prove it, we were less amused when each bus showed a video, sort of like pre-flight announcements on a plane, showed a bus rolling over and crashing and telling us what to do. Hmmm, pray?!)

I recall most of my non-flying moments vividly:

A 2.5 hours bobbing under a blazing sun traveling by boat from southern Thailand to Ko Phi Phi, tropical paradise.

Five fragrant days traveling across northern Corsica on a mo-ped — inhaling the smells of sun-warmed maquis — which I wrote about for The Wall Street Journal.

Gabi and me jumping into the back of a pickup truck in Jaji, Venezuela to attend a local dance, so high in the mountains we were literally shrouded by the occasional cloud.

Eight days in a truck with Pierre, the French trucker who spoke no English and let me share his cab from Perpignan to Istanbul, no showers along the way; cops confiscated my film in Bulgaria and thieves siphoned gas from the tank while we slept in the cab in (what was then still) Yugoslavia.

What has been your best non-airplane journey?

Retablos And B-29 Bombers — A Tucson Afternoon

In History, travel on January 12, 2010 at 1:19 am
SR-71B Blackbird, taken on December 1994 from ...

The Blackbird. Image via Wikipedia

Few people might equally enjoy visiting an 18th-century Mission and an aviation museum filled with Migs and cargo jets and Sikorskys, but I was lucky. I spent the afternoon today with Roxana, a 23-year-old Tucsonian who recently graduated journalism school here, a former student of my partner in a workshop held here every two years by The New York Times.

She must have wondered how the day would go, as I did  — sort of a blind date between two women of quite different ages who had never met, but two passionate photographers and writers. We had a great time.

The mission, established in 1700, is extraordinary, sitting nine miles outside the city on the reservation of the Tohono O’odham tribe. Its exterior is blinding white plaster on the side that has been restored, with only one tower retaining its cupola.

The interior, restored by a group of Italian and native conservators in 1995, is a riot of carving, faux-finishing, plasterwork and retablos. Two lions with gilded heads guard the altar and there is a wooden statue of St. Francis in one side niche, his lacy robe covered with tiny votos, the medallions that express wishes and prayers for health or a home or recovery. Pinned to his robe was a black and white image from someone’s sonogram, a man’s driver’s license, color photos of people.

There is nothing virtual here. This is faith and prayer made physical and visible, pinning ones hopes, quite literally, to the robes of a wooden statue of a beloved saint.

Roxana and I ate frybread, made fresh under the shade of a nearby shelter by native women, and sat in the sun for a while. We were so still that a roadrunner hopped up the hill to our very feet, then hopped away again.

We drove to the Pima Air & Space Museum, with four hangars and more than 300 different aircraft spread out under the desert sky over 80 acres. If, like me, you love airplanes and the whiff of jet fuel, this is geek heaven. Seven Migs, a B-377SG Guppy, the weirdest thing you will ever see with wings — used by NASA to transport Saturn V parts, the astonishingly sleek SR-71 “Blackbird”, capable of Mach3+, and a  B-29 Superfortress with a 141-foot wingspan.

There were planes so enormous and heavy you could not imagine them ever leaving the ground. As we strolled and patted the gleaming riveted hulls, we heard F-16s roaring overhead, training from the nearby base.

It’s hard to understand war until you see, this close, how men worked and sat or crunched themselves into tiny frigid cabins in these battered old bombers and fighters. One of the most chilling artifacts were the hand-written paper tags, Kobe City, Nagasaki, tagged to the bombs rained down on Japan, now preserved in a glass case.

An afternoon of wings — of angels and aluminum. Heaven.

OK, Nervous Flyers — With The Newest Security Rules, How Will We Handle Plane Landings?

In business, travel on December 27, 2009 at 9:14 pm
Airforce firemen cover an airplane in foam fro...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Oy. Just my luck. I’ll be flying January 9, twice, domestically. Thanks to the new security rules, we’ll now have no access to the toilets, no standing up and nothing in your lap the entire final hour before landing.

A few challenges here arise:

1) What If I’m asleep and forgot to use the bathroom in time?

2) What if I really need to pee, defecate or throw up? Pregnant women, little kids, those with bladder infections or weak stomachs or the flu are now toast.

3) How will I soothe my frazzled nerves as the plane lands, often when it’s most buffeted by wind and statistically, most likely to suffer mishap? Without a book, Ipod, magazine, stuffed animal — anything to keep my sweaty fingers engaged and my mind distracted — it’s not fun.

4) Does the list of forbidden “personal belongings” include a rosary? No, I’m not kidding. My mother and I once endured a landing in Cuzco, aboard Faucett Air, that had all us so scared we were praying aloud and I bruised the hand of the young woman sitting beside me I gripped it so tightly.

I see a big jump in Prozac ‘scrips starting Monday…

His California Garage Is A First-Class Airplane Cabin. Really.

In business, travel on October 26, 2009 at 6:33 pm
Pan Am logo, as used by Pan Am Systems (former...

Image via Wikipedia

If you’re under, maybe 30, flying has become a nightmare. Those of us with a few decades of air travel hold treasured memories of what it was like to go on an airplane trip. People dressed well, even dressed up. Real meals were served on china and glass with metal cutlery — only available now to first-pass passengers on most flights. Flight attendants (aka stewardesses) smiled and were friendly.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a great story about Anthony Toth, who has built a precise replica of a first-class cabin from a Pan Am Worldways 747 — in the garage of his two-bedroom condo in Redondo Beach, CA. Toth, a 42-year-old global sales director for United Airlines, has spent 20 years and $50,000 on the project. I get it. If you really enjoy traveling, it’s easy to miss the days when getting there was as lovely as arriving.

The closest I’ve come to commercial aviation heaven recently was our flight to Paris in October 2008 on Open Skies, an offshoot of British Airways. (We paid full price, $1,000 apiece, so there’s no other reason for me to rave except it was fantastic.) It began at JFK where the check-in desk had an enormous vase of fresh flowers. “Happy birthday,” the agent said to my sweetie, whose birthday it was (evident from his passport.) The leather seats — only 84 of them on a 757-200 — were so deep and wide my feet didn’t touch the floor and I could tuck one leg beneath another. The food was great and, halfway through the flight, a handsome, silver-haired man moved through the cabin asking each of us — like a chef moving through his restaurant — how we were enjoying our flight. The captain. Everyone was stunned with pleasure.

I hated to leave the aircraft and am counting the minutes until we have the cash to do it again.

Flying, fun? Imagine.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,091 other followers