By Caitlin Kelly
Do you love the smell of JP4 — jet fuel — as much as I do?
Live to plane-spot?
Enjoy the app FlightRadar24.com, which tracks every commercial flight in the world, offering its starting and ending points, time left in flight, airline, flight number and aircraft model?
The author, who is American, came late to aviation — 2003 — and now pilots 747s for British Airways on long-haul flights.
When you fly from London to Tokyo, you go into the Arctic and it’s a night flight. You leave London in the afternoon and you get to Tokyo in the morning. So it’s a night flight. But the sun never goes down because in those higher latitudes it doesn’t go down at all during the summer. So you fly into that area where it’s continuous sunlight, and by the time you’re flying out of that area, it’s morning where you are. But sometimes you turn south a bit and the sun will set. Then when you climb, you get higher — just a few thousand feet can make the sun rise again because you’re still getting that higher vantage point over the top of the Earth. And so, you can get three or four in the flight. It really makes you question what exactly is a day. It’s sunrise to sunset, or is it?
His book is lovely and lyrical and completely captures so many of the fleeting, private feelings that aviation inspires.
Like this passage:
“It’s four days later. I’m at home, standing sleepily by the sink. The water runs over the soles of my sneakers, sweeping the African dust brightly over the stainless steel. I have to say it in my head, practically to spell it out, ‘This is the red of the soil under the South African tree, from the morning I saw the weavers and their nests.’ I think of the term earth, both soil and planet; this earth could not have expected to meet this water, here.”
The only child of a couple that lived to travel the world I’ve been flying from an early age, my first solo trip from Toronto to Antigua, age seven.
I love the expression “turning left” — i.e. into the first class cabin — a place I’ve yet to experience. I’ve enjoyed business class a few times.
I’m enough of a geek that I often stay to the very end when disembarking just to say hello to the pilots and sneak a peek into the cockpit or ask a question. I once noticed retro-fitted winglets on one aircraft, mentioned them to the pilot, who lit up with pride and pleasure that anyone had even noticed.
When flying home to Toronto from Westchester, NY, I end up in propeller planes so small — maybe 10 seats per side — I call them the cigar tube.
Other memorable flights I’ve taken:
— Flying into Nairobi, the city suddenly appearing out of nowhere like a handful of Legos tossed into dust, Isak Dinesen’s Ngong Hills nearby
— Flying out of Charles de Gaulle, in Paris, and its weird space-age tube-enclosed escalators
— My longest flight, 15 hours, from Los Angeles to Sydney
–– A crazy flight into Cuzco, aboard Faucett, that made like a sewing machine needle, up and down through cloud cover, seeking that airport’s only runway between the Andes. Shriek!
–– An astonishingly luxurious trip aboard a 767 aboard Open Skies, flying from JFK to Orly, fitted normally for 300 passengers, that held about 80 people. The seats were so wide I could tuck my legs beneath me sideways. Heaven!
— The flight from Managua to Bilwi (coastal town) where they weighed every passenger because the plane was so small
— Flying from Caracas to Los Roques in a plane where every bit of writing was Cyrillic, a former Russian aircraft
— Heading north from Kujuuaq, Quebec to Salluit, Quebec, a town of 500 people near the Arctic Circle, landing on a small, narrow landing strip of — what else? — ice
— Smuggling my hamster Pickles underneath my coat in a specially-made box from Toronto to Edinburgh for the summer (before the use of security checks and Xray machines)
Tell us about some of your most memorable flights!