Posted by: Nathan | June 24, 2008


Pressed against the curved wall, I see the ground going by through my round portal. We pass another orange sign with a random letter that means something I’m sure, and make a final turn. The earth moves more swiftly now–plants and patches of grass flit through my field of vision ever more rapidly. Then the sudden rush that thrusts my body back and into my seat. The runway and landscape blur. Then the bump bump bump, a sudden gasp, and up. My stomach drops. The world out my window falls away quickly and becomes miniature. A few seconds more and the landscape arranges itself before my eyes into circles and squares of green and tan, with winding streams cutting through the man-made layout. A few more moments and the white puffs that were so lofty only moments ago drop beneath me; they seem suspended in a glass case for anyone to examine. Flight.

Perhaps it is because I don’t fly very often that I cannot help but be overwhelmed by flying every time I board a plane. I admit that there are many inconveniences to flying–lines, security checkpoints, money, small cabins, etc.–but how did these become the focus of our attention? We are among the minuscule number of individuals who have seen the ground beneath our feet with nothing to support us. Think of the thousands of years of ground travel and the billions of people who have looked up at the sky and wondered what it would be like. It’s barely been 100 years since Kittyhawk, and we think flying is a chore!

Airports are fascinating places. A few hundred years ago, an airport was high science fiction. A place near your house that will transport you anywhere in the world. Walking down a terminal is almost surreal for me. Here are some people going to Miami. Ten steps later, here’s a group bound for Pittsburgh, L.A., Washington, D.C., Seattle. There are others going even farther: London, Paris, Moscow, Sydney, Tokyo, Beijing, Madrid, Rome. Right now they’re feet from me; in a few hours, they’ll be thousands of miles away and thousands of feet up heading for a culture I cannot imagine.

I suppose that if flight were part of my job and I spent weeks away from home each year, I would grow tired of flying. We are very good at getting used to the extraordinary if given enough time. I long to travel more, and someday I’ll experience the headaches that accompany such trips. But for me, it’s still a miracle that a heavy metal object carrying dozens of people easily traverses thousands of miles at great speeds. I hope I never lose the thrill and amazement at takeoff.


  1. Great post! Honestly, only when I really think about it does flight amaze me. A good reminder to stop and be aware of one’s experiences.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. It’s our nature, I think, to lose our sense of wonder. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I’m just uncomfortable flying. Take-off’s not so bad, but turbulence and landing I don’t enjoy (the smaller the plane, the worse for me). Is that a good enough reason to dislike the process?

    I totally agree that people take it for granted, even though I’d prefer a train.

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