Of vanishing planes and travel in the time of terror

Old war planes at the British Royal Museum

Old war planes at the British Royal Air Museum

I’ve boarded quite a few planes in my lifetime.

Not so many as to compete with my pilot buddies, or business tripper acquaintances or even seasoned globetrotters who have just about racked up 100+ in their country count. Not even as much as some newbie travelers, but enough to learn a thing or two.

While a couple of years back all I did was nonchalantly hop on board, latch into position and figure out how to whittle the hours away before we landed; and even developed face contorting skills as I eye-rolled the crazy, drunk or overly-enthusiastic passengers who broke out into song, cheers and loud claps when the plane landed; this time I do things differently.

To start with, just before boarding, I find myself peering at the plane from a distance, behind the huge glass windows. I ponder on whether the pilots are of sound mind, I wonder if all the safety and security checks have rigorously been carried out, I think about all the hours this massive metallic bird will spend up there, as engine power roars and pushes, so that we are buoyed in the sky, magically defying gravity.

As we walk down the funnel and onto the plane, I find myself tapping the plane’s body, feeling it’s smoothness, saying a quick prayer before the beaming air hostesses ever so spiffy in their crisp uniforms welcome us in.

I’ve never really paid attention to fellow passengers. I’ve always been busy trying to locate seats, or huffing and puffing with heavy carry-ons and trying hardest not to bump heads as I go along. I’ve sat next to chatty folk, and silent ones, next to parents with babies, and elderly passengers. I’ve sat next to couples so in love, that the world didn’t exist outside of their bubble. I’ve even eavesdropped loud animated conversations without wanting to…loads of times. Then there have been the knight-in-shining-armor guys that leap to the assistance of any damsel with weighty luggage to haul to the overhead.

I now listen to the pre-flight briefings, and find myself asking, “What if?”
I pay attention to the location of oxygen masks and how to place them on my mouth.
I imagine crash positions, and I find myself hoping never to be in a plane that crashes, or vanishes. That as I board in one piece, I would like to get off the same way, not in a million pieces.

I enjoy the taxing of the plane, the welcome announcement by the pilot, the racing down the runway, the speed and ascent into the clouds. I’m happy with the descent, the circling, the earth taking steps to meet us, buildings getting larger, then landing, and when the plane slows to a halt, the announcement from the cockpit, “Thank you for flying with…we look forward to having you on board again..”

Phuket from the air.

Phuket from the air.

I would imagine this to be the scenario in any passengers minds as they travel in these times of terrorism. None of them envisages that they will not land, won’t go to that conference, won’t meet their loved ones, won’t explore that country, won’t survive another day.

With headlines flashing across our screens of yet another incident, act of terrorism, vanishing planes, bombs, shootings and hijackings; people are choosing to travel less. Others are choosing not to travel.

Some are opting for destinations that seem very safe. They’ve pulled out a red marker, and crossed out locations blighted by terrorism. They’ve crossed out airlines touched by this scourge.

There are losses on many sides, given that travel and tourism are intertwined in a billion-dollar industry from which many draw a means of livelihood.

It is daunting to say the least; not knowing when, where or how terrorists will attack.

Or who can assume the label of a terrorist.

The morphing of ordinary responsible citizens living amongst us; students, factory workers, professionals; into people who strap a vest to their chests, and blow themselves up, along with many others, off the face of the earth is mind-boggling.

So,  I think we should all listen..

Listen to your loves, your friends, your family. Even though they think you’re playing Russian roulette traveling so often in times like this.

Listen to the media reports just enough to be informed, but not so much as to be scared out your wits into inaction.

Listen to the what-to-do’s if ever caught up in such a situation.

Listen to countries that have known what it means to live in terror and with terror, and yet they have come out strong, choosing not to have their psyche broken by mindless actions of others.

Listen to the quiet small voice deep inside your heart of hearts, the gut feeling that instructs, that says now, or go, stay, or wait.

Listen to yourself. To your spirit’s positivity, the hopeful dreams, the glorious futures, to life.


An Egypt Air plane. My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives.

An Egypt Air plane. My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives in the recent tragedy.

2 replies »

  1. Great post! I think it has to do with growing older. I used to be so blasé about travel, but now find myself a bit apprehensive. I still won’t let fear hold me back. It just sucks when horrible things like this happens. You can’t help but feel for the victims. Yeah..let’s all take time to listen like you say.


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