The Monday Passenger
The aviation industry has always left me awestruck. Every time I look up and see an aircraft zoom past over me, it reminds me of the enormous amount of work put in by the mechanics, pilots and ATC. I thank you folks for making air travel the safest form of travel today.
I take my seat next to the aisle and put my seatbelt on. Right ahead, I can see the half open cockpit door. Inside are the buttons, switches, gauges and knobs that enable a hundred and eighty humans to defy gravity for a relatively short span of time. Ground personnel are entering and exiting, each carrying necessary paperwork to be filled out before takeoff. The cabin crew are urging the fliers to take their seats fast, while one of them standing at row 12 explains to the person seated the procedure for operating the emergency exit. ‘You will only open the door on a direct order from either the captain or the flight crew,’ I remember being told once.
I peer out of the right window and gaze upon the cold winter morning. It’s not even 6 AM, and I’ve been awake since 3 AM. Moreover, I have my day packed till 7 PM. A long day ahead, I silently curse to myself. The fog outside is delaying procedures, and the weather might be below the allowable limit for a takeoff. Thinking that I might be late for class, I close my eyes.
I hear the engines spin up, thousands of revolutions per minute. The sudden acceleration pushes me into my seat. I open my eyes, and look out the window, and gauge that we were aligned on the runway. I look forward, excited for the most enjoyable part of the forty-five-minute flight.
I see a slew of controls and buttons, markers and displays all light up the dimly lit inside of my imaginary cockpit. To my right is the co-pilot, both of us pushing down the thrust lever in unison. The plane speeds past the runway. All the taxiways and exits going past the left side of the aircraft. I felt minuscule compared to the mighty power of the two Rolls Royce engines thrusting the plane down the runway. The plane hits V1, which is the velocity beyond which there was no turning back. ‘V1!’, said my co-pilot, to which I silenty nod. Still accelerating, the plane hits rotation velocity or V2. I notice another silent nod through my peripheral vision. ‘Rotate’, I hear him say as I pull the control column towards me, raising the nose and climbing into the air. The wings are scooping air like how a bird would at low speeds. ‘Positive climb’. The horizontal level of the artificial horizon sinks down. Checklists running through my mind. ‘Gear up’, my co-pilot says as he flips a switch and 3 green lights disappear from the dashboard. The plane climbs to the predetermined flight level, where it would receive heading and further instructions from the ATC. My hand reaches out to retract the flaps.
The passenger seated next to me grabs my hand and yanks it away from him. Coming back to reality, I turn towards him and observe the nasty look on his face. I apologize for my misconduct, put my earphones in and close my eyes to catch some sleep. The plane falls during the ascent, causing butterflies in my stomach. ‘Pulled the flaps too early, I’ll do it right the next time,’ I think to myself.