This Friday I take the longest flight I’ve ever been on. A whole eight hours. Yeah, that’s right. Eight.
Now, this might not seem long to you air-hardened sheeple, but I’m here to tell you… It is. (Ooh)
Yes, I am the man who, from the age of eleven, didn’t fly for a decade. These are often referred to as your ‘peak’ flying years, because you weigh less and that means the plane can take off easier. But now I have fattened and own heavier clothes I dread to think what an ordeal this must be for the airline.
I suppose my dislike of flying is based around two things. Death and death by aeroplane. I’m assuming in a past life I died, which explains that fear. The aeroplanes? I have no idea. Sure, I’ve never much liked heights or men who drive in hats (or ‘pilots’).
…Also in late 2001 I worked myself up so much my whole family had to disembark a Ryanair flight before it took off because I was convinced I was going to die. But that’s probably not important.
I assumed I’d never fly again. But aged 22 I realised I would maybe like to see more than what lies at the extremes of Abellio Greater Anglia’s railway tracks. So, I took a fear of flying course at Leeds Bradford airport. And… it worked!
I have flown several times since. But these have been so short you barely even notice them being terrifying. I hope I can be as calm when I fly transatlantic. Especially as, since I went on the course, I’ve forgotten basically all of what they taught me.
So next time you’re scared, just stay calm and remember the words of advice I so clearly haven’t.
1. There is a formula which explains why we stay in the air. … I cannot remember it
The day began at 8am (ugh, I’ve spent eleven years not flying, I can wait another three hours…). The organisers began by sitting us 50 spooked so-and-so’s down to a presentation telling us in simple terms why air travel is safe. How do they think these things up?!
Anyway, basically, if you’re scared about falling out of the sky (which I was) planes take off, stay in the air and land because of maths. What maths, who knows. But chances are it has an x in it.
2. Planes are incredibly well regulated. Probably.
Soon after, we were spoken to by a charismatic pilot whose name I can’t remember (let’s call him Captain Dom). Captain Dom told us how all pilots and planes are tested rigorously and regularly. I’m assuming this extends beyond the immediate Leeds/Bradford area. But just in case, if you live outside of there, even as close as Harrogate, frankly I wouldn’t risk it.
3. Captain Dom commanded the respect of all who knew him
There was a real authority to Captain Dom. He wore a uniform, had a powerful moustache that made Tom Selleck look like a pussy war deserter and when he walked in the room, the air stewards present honestly stood up and kissed him. It was the kind of respect you couldn’t dream of if you’d crashed a plane or two.
So if you don’t trust me, trust a man I think was called Dom.
4. There are several breathing exercises to calm you
Some psychologists taught us these. But I’ll be honest I zoned out at this bit. Breathe in… Great. Oh I wonder what’s next? I can breathe in my own time.
5. Captain Dom’s moustache masked a wry smile
I cannot emphasise enough how impressive Captain Dom’s moustache was. It bred confidence. Flying’s one of those pursuits where it’s pretty much all about confidence. That, as well as formal training and being able to resist man’s innate urge to fly the plane into the sun. But mainly the confidence bit.
6. For lunch we had lasagne
… But I was too nervous to eat it. I don’t think I’m alone in being unable to eat lasagne when I’m nervous. Sure, Garfield can, but was Garfield lying awake at night worried about an 8am flight to Marseille? No. He was too busy being an orange dick.
Aside from eating, when nervous I also can’t focus, breathe or cartwheel (nor can I at any time). But anyway, I’m sure the spread was lovely.
7. The woman who sat next to me on the plane dealt with honey or something
So to the air! Yes, after lunch we were actually taken on a short flight. I was beyond nervous.
On the plane I sat next to an elderly lady. She was very nice and I think she owned bees or something. Either way we talked about honey a lot so let’s hope so. And despite being petrified I realised I had to be brave for honey lady. I held her hand as we took off. I comforted her as she almost cried. And as we landed we looked at each other as if to say ‘we did it’. Then we actually said ‘we did it’. This isn’t The Artist. But it really was an amazing moment and we shared a special connection that will never leave me.
Now I think about it maybe she made jam.
8. The volunteer girl I liked had a boyfriend
We landed. Wow. What I had assumed impossible wasn’t. And there was one girl my age to share the moment with – a volunteer. I thought now that I’d shown myself to be brave and not shouted too many obscenities at the sky (I didn’t say none) that she’d probably marry me there and then. But she mentioned something about a boyfriend which is both rude and unprofessional in such an environment (that environment being one where I didn’t want that to be the case).
Yes, I had gotten over a life crippling disorder which took great courage to overcome. Yes I stole some of Captain Dom’s moustache and keep it under my pillow in the hope it’ll entice my own moustache out. But I didn’t get the girl. I tried to console myself by saying hey two out of three ain’t bad. But I wanted all three so tbh I was disappointed.
Unfortunately this undid a lot of the hard work and became yet another reason for me to hate airports and, to a lesser extent, women. But I guess that’s another blog.
Oh and if you haven’t breathed out yet, do that. My bad.