Flying East

November 1, 2005

[2012/06] This post was ported over from a very old blog I maintained elsewhere]

Every time I fly I pray to the pantheon of Aerodynamics, Air Traffic Control and Metal Fatigue. I’m a bad flier, have you guessed? When the plane banks, I always think it’s going to slide off the sky, and I know better - I have 6 years of engineering school that tells me so. But worry is a funny thing.

I always make a point of looking out the window on take-off and landing. These are the worst two times for me. As a child, they are when I would suffer the worst motion sickness. Now, I don’t get sick. I just feel extra mortal. For most of a flight I’ll bury my nose in a book or the inflight film. But as we leave or meet the ground, I like to watch the world rush by. I think it’s about wanting a last connection if something bad was to happen.

When we took off from Vancouver on Friday, I noticed how different certain things can look when you see them from up high. When we sail in Georgia Strait, the log-boom barges tow booms that are several hundred yards long. They inch along - the hydrodynamics of a log boom not being all that optimized. Yet, from the air, the log booms being towed up the Fraser River seem to be over half a kilometer long. They are stitched together from over half a dozen of the booms we see in the Strait. I had always supposed that the tugs shepherded each boom individually to its final destination. It has taken an airplane ride to disabuse me of that notion.

The weather features you fly through can also be interesting. On Monday, as we landed, we flew through the clouds. It was dark, so the flashing lights at the tip of the wing illuminated the grey darkness intermittently. It looked as though it was snowing, out there at the tip of the wing, yet it could simply have been large water droplets. The city looked like a jewel as we dipped beneath the clouds. Roads of gold and silver with scintillating drops of blood flowing along each artery. We flew over my home, out over the Georgia Strait and circled back for the landing, the airport runway lights beckoning us in. I could see the tugs with their tows again, not physically, but by inference from their lights. Even at that height I could make out the stacked lights indicating how many barges each tug had.

Once a sailor, always a sailor, even when navigating the third dimension…

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