Airports and Airplanes


Airports and airplanes. I’ve had enough of them to last a lifetime. And that was before security checks.

Airports, where there is crying at departures, and smiling at arrivals.

Very few people enjoy sitting in airports, waiting for their original or connecting flights. I generally found it a pleasant way to pass away time. So many stories. Of course I didn’t go up to people and ask them their life story. I just sat there, and tried to imagine what they were based on how they acted or their facial expressions.

Today they would be on their iPhones or other, and if I sat close enough, considering the people they were talking to, I would learn their entire family history, going back to England or Ireland or Scotland or Italy or you name the country.

I remember a conversation I had with a fellow in an airport while we were waiting for different flights. I’d like to tell you where I was. Out west somewhere. Often when I was waiting in an airport I had to try and remember where I was. Or if I was in a hotel or motel exactly what city I was in. Business travelers can identify with that.

This fellow lived in San Francisco. He was there during the “great shake” as he called their earthquake, the one that halted the World Series in Oakland. Here I could engage in where were you when? His would be what he was doing. Shaving. His chandelier began to tingle. Not having been in an earthquake before, he didn’t quite understand what was about to happen. He admitted he never again wanted to be in that few seconds of horrificality.

He had another story, about a flight he was on. He had the aisle seat, and noticed he was by the emergency door. A fellow was sitting in the seat closest to the door, dressed in coveralls and a toolbox at his feet. They engaged in a conversation as the plane was taking off. The airline had had trouble with the emergency door on that plane coming somewhat loose in-flight, and he was there to repair it. If there are any non-fliers out there, when the emergency door disengages or flies off, the decompression in the passenger cabin starts trying its best to suck everybody out the hole it left, first in line being the person sitting by the emergency door, and the person on the aisle seat by him. Even if you are securely in your seat with a seat belt attached, you go.

I can remember on a flight meeting the ‘Potato Lady” from McDonald’s. I found out there were many more things that could be wrong with a potato than I ever imagined. This quality-control expert had the yes or no on all potatoes McDonalds used for their French fries. Afterwards, I always thought of her if I ate French fries at McDonald’s.

I was on a commuter flight out of Cincinnati bound for Lexington. A cross-current of wind hit as we leveled off for a landing. That had happened before, even on larger planes. They would simply angle in, and at the last few seconds, the plane would straighten up for a direct approach. No big deal. This commuter plane was much lighter than the larger planes. The landing was at a forty-five degree angle from direct. When we hit the runway, still at forty-five degrees, the pilots realigned the plane to direct forward. I found out the pilot and co-pilots were ladies. If courtesy had permitted, I would have first kissed their hands, then gotten on my knees to kiss their feet, and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I was in Louisville, Kentucky, waiting for a flight. There weren’t many people in the waiting area for some reason, and after studying them for a few minutes, I glanced outside through a window. About a hundred yards away what caught my eye was a large, cream-colored plane with no identifying markings on it. Then I saw this good-size van or bus pull up. When the first men exited and headed toward the plane, I realized what it was—Con-Air.

This was no Nicholas Cage movie. This was the real deal. U. S. Marshalls lined what I called the inner perimeter, surrounding the plane with some serious fire power. I didn’t see anyone on what I termed the outer perimeter, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. There was a hangar close by that might reveal a miniature army once the doors were flung open.

The men must have been the worst of the worst. Their feet were shackled, which in some instances necessitated that awkward hop-step. Their hands were cuffed. Most had their faces turned toward the plane, but a couple of them looked in my direction. The distance separating us gave me some comfort, but their facial expressions could have scared Frankenstein. I’m not sure what other people would have thought at that moment, but, even though I was sure they could not identify me through a slightly tinted window, I moved out of their sight. I didn’t want them sitting in their cells night after night, thinking I was the fellow in charge of this operation, and one day when they got out, they’d find me, and ………………….

Airport terminals for private planes are different. They are off the main airport, much smaller, and much less congested. That brings me to the no-longer Meigs Airport in Chicago.

Meigs had only one landing strip which was 4,000 feet. The Beechcraft twin-engine we were in required 4,000 feet to take off, with a half empty tank of fuel. We were going to be on an extended flight when we left Meigs, and the pilot filled the tank to the brim. How shall I describe the clearance of the plane when we took off? I had not planned to read the advertising signs attached to the fence at the end of the runway.

Airplanes are still rated the safest mode of transportation. If…………………

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