Light Iron : Mooney

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Okay, so I’m obsessed with Mooneys. These posts used to be reserved for the heavy-iron, and there will definitely be more of those, but I hope you’ll bear with me as I’m consumed by thoughts of owning one of these great airplanes.

For me, honestly, I’d much prefer a small airplane over a heavy jet, for the simple fact that I get to be the one up front flying it. It seems very unlikely at this point that I’d start a new career as an airline pilot, so my chances of ever flying a 777 are basically zero. Instead, I’ll be perfectly happy cruising down lower and slower in my own personal airliner.

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Heavy Iron: Airbus A340-600

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Just prior to boarding on my trip to Shanghai in Spring 2012. I would be on that airplane for nearly 17 hours direct JFK-PVG. What an amazing feat of engineering.

It’s actually a complicated trip to think about. Soon after I returned, a long-term relationship ended. Soon after that, I started flight training. Now a year later, there is still some sadness,  way deep down.

But life goes on.

A year later, I’m a licensed pilot, and it’s one of my happiest accomplishments.

And I just booked a trip to France with my new girlfriend. We’re flying on a 777.

 

Heavy Iron: Boeing 777-200

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This is one of the best moments of a vacation in my mind. You’ve planned for months, paid for the tickets, counted down the days. Waited not-so-patiently for it to get here.

Time seemed to slow down those last few days at work before a vacation. You looked at the clock on the wall and it said quarter-past two in the afternoon. What seemed like hours passed and you looked back at the same clock. Half-past two. Time is standing still, mocking you.

Finally, done with work, you’ve arranged for a colleague to handle things while you’re gone, set up an out-of-the-office email autoreply, and walked out the door into sweet sweet freedom. Suddenly time steps on the gas pedal and starts racing you. There’s not enough minutes to do all the last minute things that have to happen before a big trip. Oh why didn’t you start packing sooner?

But relax: you’re on vacation. The departure day has arrived, you’re all packed, you’ve got your passport and your tickets. You make it through security at the airport. The flight is on-time.

It’s that time between work and vacation. Starting to decompress from the stress and routine and rigor of everyday life and go explore somewhere new. It’s time to escape. And at the gate in front of you, sleek and powerful, buzzing with activity, is the machine that will get you there.

I tend to remember every airplane I’ve flown on for vacations. This was the 777-200 that took us to Italy back in the summer of 2011 (actually, 777 to Frankfurt, Germany then an A321 down to Rome). It was an amazing trip marked by my first up-close encounters with Bernini, Velazquez, and Michaelangelo in Rome and some truly breathtaking natural scenery in Cinque Terre.

A very crowded Spanish Steps in Rome

A very crowded Spanish Steps in Rome – July 2011

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Corniglia from the high path above Manarola, Cinque Terre

Heavy Iron: Airbus A340-300

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Maho Beach at St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

This place has long been on my bucket list. But thinking back, in the last five years I haven’t been to any beach apart from the one an hour away from where I live. And that one doesn’t have crystal clear waters (it’s the Jersey Shore, after all). Or airliners flying 50 feet overhead.

February in New Jersey certainly took its toll: I could use some sun on my face and warm sand between my toes. Perhaps it’s high time to visit St. Maarten for a long weekend…

…to watch airplanes land.

Air France Airbus A340-313X (F-GLZ0)

Heavy Iron

Vapor Maker by Angelo Bufalino (TheProparazzi)) on 500px.com
Vapor Maker by Angelo Bufalino

I wonder how many people on that airplane take flying for granted. How many people are sitting there right at that moment worrying about the stresses at work or at home, or absent-mindedly reading the junky, germy magazines and catalogs in the seat pocket in front of them. Maybe they are being absent-minded on purpose, because flying scares them a little bit, deep down.

I think with everything else going on in our lives we can easily take flying for granted. “Going to the airport” anymore is fraught with struggles. Sometimes we might struggle to get out the door with the family-in-tow, or struggle to get through traffic, and parked, and to the correct terminal, and through the check-in line. And then comes security–another post all in itself. They tell us to get to the airport at least 2 hours early, but every time I do, I end up waiting in an uncomfortable airport chair for 90+ minutes before boarding the airplane. The furniture is bad, the people are everywhere, the snacks are expensive, and the entertainment is slim. “I just want to be there already,” we think.

Finally when we’re allowed on the airplane we have to stand there while people take their sweet time trying to jam a too-large carry-on in the overhead compartment, then take off their coat–while still in the aisle–before taking their seat. Only to find that the person waiting right behind them actually has the window seat in that row. And when you finally find your seat there is a 2 year-old sitting behind you. And he’s whiny. And on and on and on.

Remember the first sentence of this post? I guess it’s no wonder so many people probably take flying for granted. The whole process can be one of the most stressful, aggravating experiences in daily life. But let’s not forget just how miraculous it is to be flying. Just how far we’ve come in a little over 100 years. Look at that picture above. Those are two of the most powerful engines ever created, each generating near 100,000 pounds of thrust. Look at the wings, with the vapor clouds–tell-tale signs of lift–being generated as the airfoil creates a large enough area of low pressure on top of the wing to pull the half-million pound weight of the airplane into the sky. In the fuselage there are a few hundred people who, in about 9 hours’ time will step off the airplane on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

These machines are amazing technological achievements. Let’s try not to let all the rest of the things we encounter while “going to the airport” get in the way.