When It’s Bad to Think About Flying

IMG_1866This post was originally written on 11 November, 2014.

I’ve flown a lot in my life, and at the moment I’m in an airplane at least every other week – generally from Cardiff or Bristol to Amsterdam and back again. I’m in an airplane right now.

I’ve never had a fear of flying, but the more often I fly, the more a feeling of statistical unease creeps up in the back of my mind. How many flights do you have to take before a technical error causes it to drop out of the sky? Before a drunken pilot flubs a takeoff or landing? Before a terrorist attack results in the loss of the flight? Now this is a very morbid line of thought. As they say, you’re statistically much more likely to die in a car crash than you are in a plane. I’ve already been in one car crash, so maybe that absolves me of my airplane crash in the world of wishful statistics.

No matter how often you fly (or perhaps the more often you fly), there is an almost-impalpable sense of relief when the wheels of the plane gently lift from the ground. When you become weightless and drift inexorably into the clouds. You are invincible once you break that cloud layer, looking down on an alien landscape of meringue and cotton wool. Flying from Cardiff to Amsterdam or Amsterdam to Cardiff it’s almost always bad weather. Gusts of wind nudge the wings into uncomfortable angles with the ground as the plane takes off and lands, and tilt your seat to stomach-lurching degrees. Looking out the window you see the rain-slick tarmac ever so close to the oscillating wings as the wheels struggle to gain purchase in the air.

But in the end you make it. And everything is different above the clouds.

You’ve texted your partner before switching your phone to airplane mode, and you’ll text him again as soon as you touch down, after you’ve swapped out your sim card and before the long taxi in to the terminal. And you’ll forget you were ever worried that things might have been otherwise.

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