Welcome to Sun Air International Airline. Please put each of your bags on the bathroom scales here. What is your weight, please? I think the flight today will be a bit rough.
We are on our way to Victoria, Texas – about two hours south of Houston by car. It is a long round-trip drive and our daughter is working today so we are taking the shuttle between Houston Bush International Airport and Victoria Airport. I have been looking forward to this experience since our daughter took this shuttle in December and showed us a newspaper article about it. I like living on the edge – well, as close to the edge as my age and my height anxiety let me get. No sky diving or cliff walking.
Welcome aboard! This is the pilot and he assigned our seat as we boarded – “you sit on the left, second row” (of four, not counting the pilot’s seat). Based on weight. He knows the weight of the checked baggage and then, using the passenger list with our weights, distributes the weight in the cabin. The person on the right is the one who checked us in and carried out our bags.
This is my view from my seat. I have an isle seat – oh and a window seat. The seat in the first row just in front of me holds the pilot’s bag – there isn’t a co-pilot. I’m in the second row and there are just four passengers. But not to fret – we are flying with the Big Boys.
Well I did feel a little nervous because we could have rolled right under the wing of that Big Boy and never been noticed. But I’m a little ahead of myself. The pilot shimmies into his seat and after clicking a lot of buttons and turning a lot of knobs and checking his list a couple of times, he starts the first propeller engine. Then he starts the second. And I’m thinking I’m seeing more than I really want to see about flying a plane. My anxiety, however, is outweighed by my fascination. And this isn’t my first small flight – last year my husband and I went up in a Ford Tri-Motor that was great fun – but it was bigger.
After both engines are going and the person is pointing his sticks for us to leave, the pilot turns off the engines and starts to stand up. Pointing at some lights above the dash he said, “These lights shouldn’t be on. I have to check it out.” Gulp. He slammed the back door and returned to his seat. Light is out and everything was fine for take-off.
It was a rough ride and I found I kept trying to level the plane by shifting my body to the right and left as the wings dipped right and left. I also realized I went into little frenzies of photo taking – at the same time that the plane really started bouncing around. I always have coped with anxiety by getting into thinking and doing. It isn’t easy taking photos while on the bounce.
I know that airplanes have auto pilot but I had a strong urge to tap him on the shoulder and ask him to please keep both hands on the wheel. Instead I focused on the gauges. That was when I noticed that both gas gauges read a little over 1/4 full. Did he forget to fill up before he left? How far can a small plane go on a quarter of a tank? Where is the next gas station? What happens if we are put in a holding pattern over Victoria (small-town airport)?
I think it was about this time that I started developing a plan. What if the pilot (a youngish man) has a heart attach? I don’t have a license to practice medicine or to fly a plane but decided I’d place my bets on landing a plane with help from the ground tower. I rehearsed in my mind that I would jump into the co-pilot seat, grab the headphones from his head and tell my husband to keep him from flopping onto me while I yelled into the mic looking for someone to talk me through it. There, I have everything under control if there is an emergency.
With a plan well laid out, I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the flight. Soon I could see the runway out the front window and we went in for a smooth landing. I hope he realizes that he couldn’t have done it without my help.
This is Frizz’s tagged – f that you can learn more about by clicking here.