Monday, December 1, 2003

Thanks, Wilbur and Orville


By James Aronovsky

Ahh... flying. Many years ago that word meant freedom and adventure, excitement and mystery. Now it means long, long lines, surly security checkers, unhelpful ticket agents, and some fellow travellers who really need a shower. It means walking barefoot with your belt buckle dangling, and hoping you don't fit the profile or become the next random selectee.

Actually, that describes pre-flight. Flying means being jammed into a seat designed for no humans you know, with your knees tucked up fetal-position against your chin, screaming babies, obese seat-mates taking your armrest, and interminable delays. The food, if you get any, is either dry and over-salted, or soggy and flavorless. The air you breathe is circulated a few times an hour, and eventually you know you will be breathing the cold or flu molecules of any sick people who are on board.

Most people aren't afraid of flying; they're just afraid of airports and airlines.

But let me tell you about a flight I took recently that was very different. I live in San Diego and suddenly decided I needed to watch the final World Series game with my brother in San Jose, 500 miles away. So, on a beautiful Saturday morning, I drove my car ten minutes to a small airfield near my house.

On the way, I spoke to Flight Service who told me that my route would be blue skies and light winds. I parked (without having to get a ticket) right next to my small Piper Cherokee. It's a 2-seater (or 4 if your back-seat passengers are little) that when bought used, costs about the same as a nice SUV. I threw my bag into the back and after pre-flighting the airplane, I sat in the pilot's seat, as you can see in Figure A.


Self-portrait of me flying over the desert in southern California. (click for larger image)

Before I continue my journal, I'd like to share with you a few other pictures. Figure B shows flying at the very tip of Africa around the Cape of Good Hope.


You can see the very tip of Africa around the Cape of Good Hope. (click for larger image)

In Figure C, you can Coronado Island in San Diego, just out my wing.


You can Coronado Island in San Diego, just out my wing. (click for larger image)

Next up in Figure D is a picture of the Borrego Desert and Salton Sea, again through my own, private window seat.


Here's a picture of the Borrego Desert and Salton Sea. (click for larger image)

And, finally, Figure E shows My dream airplane, the Stearman PT-17, a World War II training plane painted in Army Colors.


Let's all admire the Stearman PT-17. This is the real PT Cruiser. (click for larger image)