Windwalker first wrote this on the PFSG Forum on July 4, 2008, under the thread, “Why I Hate Airline Flights.” It’s a great essay on what differentiates real pilots from those who ride in airplanes.
Tonet. Let’s forget for a while that you are an aviation enthusiast with a passion for flight. Since when was airline flying (for the non-enthusiast) ever meant to be a “romantic adventure”?
Everything about an airline flight (for the average joe) is orchestrated to deny the fact that you are actually flying. You enter the airplane from a tube directly from a waiting room, so you can hardly be aware that you are entering a plane at all. Once inside, your perceptions are narrowed and limited to the familiar, the ordinary artifacts of your ordinary world.
The flight attendants may be charming and attractive, but you have met their personae (waitresses in a restaurant, for example) many times before. Their job is to make the experience of airline travel as bland and as routine as possible and to create the illusion that you’re just spending a passive interlude between airports.
When you are a stereotypical passenger, there is little or nothing at all for you to learn about flying.
Air travel has been so drained of vitality and wonder that it just an arid exercise.
It’s a necessary evil to endure if you want to go from one city to another.
As you put it, airline flying is just “transportation.” That’s because it was meant to be that way. Its not supposed to be romantic (to the average passenger).
That’s also why an average passenger would freak out if the airliner flew into a typhoon. The whole typhoon experience would suddenly remind him he is not in the safe confines of the earth.
What makes the whole airline travel experience “agitating” for you (and me) is the fact that we are also pilots.
I too get “agitated” riding as an airline passenger on 14 hour flights.
That’s because the world of the pilot is not the world of a passenger, just like the world of the dancer is not the world of his or her audience.
If you’ve experienced the world of the pilot as we both have, its easy to see why we both find the world of the passenger to be extremely lifeless.
When we talk about flying – through the experience of the passenger – it is not the flying that we love.
Now here’s part of my contribution to your blog:
Why do I love flying? I love flying because it gives me the chance to use my skills and intelligence to the utmost. When I fly, I have to coordinate my mind and body to levels of performance that I rarely need to attain in other aspects of my life.
Flying involves the use of both a scientific, rational and orderly part of you as well as an artistic or “holistic” side of you. Flying gives me the opportunity to exercise my human capacity to the fullest. There is no potential of myself as a person that is left untapped.
Because of this, I think that few people (other than pilots) are lucky enough to find something that demands so much of themselves and at the same time brings them so much pleasure. When I’m up in the air flying, I become more than I ever thought I could be. I am indeed lucky because few people ever get to experience that.
Remember that career day talk at Philippine Science High School? I had a moment alone with Meynard and told him: “Many say that airline flying is very dull, structured, lifeless, by the numbers. That I’m just a glorified bus driver. If that’s true, then why do I still feel giddy and excited before every flight, like a little boy about to open Christmas presents?”
Meynard replied: “That’s because your passion for flight is purer than anyone else’s.”
I’ve flown your Cessna 152 but you’ve never flown my A320. Wanna know the difference? There is none. Both experiences are extremely beautiful, and I’m very happy doing both. A far cry from experiencing flight as a passenger.
Jul 4, 2008
Posted by Tonet from Bangkok, December 13, 2008
DC-9 flight deck photos by Jaime Unson