Fear of Flying

Back in my travelling days (when dinosaurs were still evolving) I was truly petrified of flying. But – I had made so many international friends whom I wanted to visit with that I gritted my teeth and buckled in for many, many a flight. ‘Course, back in them days, they didn’t care if you were, or got, drunk so I’d usually find the bar close to the boarding area, and then often get offered drinks by gentlemen seat-mates. Some flights had complimentary drinks even in economy!

All the drinks didn’t help just a whole bunch, but it was fun.

I kept reminding myself of all the usual statistics about the safety of air travel – yet, once in the air I’d have to help the pilot keep the plane aloft with a death grip to the arm rest until we arrived. No idea what my stupid subconscious thought that was going to do, but there I sat, tense as a banjo string.

I did ponder the irrationality of it all and came to the conclusion that it was the lack of control and understanding that was at the root of my fear – so, learn to fly and get cured!

Getting into flying turned out to be almost prohibitive where I lived at the time, but a few years later my (late) husband and I moved to Southern California and found Aviation Heaven – a small, private, uncontrolled field, right in town. Our first visit to the airport greeted us with a gathering of Swifts – I think there were about a dozen of them! My husband had “always” had the flying bug, remembering from his childhood how his dad would get him out of school and take him flying. We both started lessons in the flight school’s 152, but had the “good luck” to inherit enough money to buy a used Cherokee before too long. My husband went ahead and got his license and I soloed after much hum-ing and haw-ing (didn’t like to be up there alone).

I never persued my license, but still get a kick out of flying in GA aircraft. Our son got his license about a year ago and he’s taken me up. It, amazingly, looked pretty familiar – even though it’s 20+ years later and he flies 172’s. I don’t think I’d want to be the only one alive on a 747 and have to land it, but I could probably save a not-too-hot GA plane if it came down to it. What scared me the most was always the radio work – couldn’t make out what they were saying most of the time. That’s why I like uncontrolled fields – friendly unicom territory.

Alas, our friendly home-away-from-home Meadowlark Airport is no more. Our son has childhood memories from there and positively refuses to set foot in the Ralphs market that went in at about the end of the runway. I have only once driven through the planned development that now occupies the area we used to roam – the tie-downs, the run-up area, the wash rack, the hangars… Not a trace. One little plaque in a mini-park is all.


On the positive side: nobody can take away the fabulous memories!

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