Friday, May 11, 2012

Flying and Heights

A DelphiForums friend mentioned she's afraid of flying and would never go up in an airplane. That prompted this response of some of my own experience regarding flying and heights.

I can deal with flying. My first flying experience was with my father - we were both passengers - in a helicopter in the '60s that flew over Niagara Falls (slowly I turned, step by step - no wait...) in the days before they had to fly very high - we were probably 500 feet up. It was quite an experience.

In early '73 I flew in an old Convair 440 from Denver to Aspen when I worked for Aspen Airways, "the world's fastest ski lift." Going into Aspen, we circled once with the mountains below. The second circle was with the peaks above us and the airport runway still looked like a streak of grease on the snow. I was a gate agent on a day off and on the flight back they asked me to help run the metal detectors over the other passengers before they boarded. (One day in Denver I got to do that to New York's Mayor John Lindsay, who'd clomped through the detection gate carrying his ski boots with lots of metal. His bodyguard gave me the evil eye as I did my job. I was not impressed.)

My parents' house was about a mile as the DC-3 flies from the end of an airport in Massachusetts. I say DC-3 because they often flew quite low right over the house when Northeast Airlines had commercial flights into the airport. Being so close, I'd go to air shows they had in the '80s and once went up in a helicopter, one similar to the Niagara Falls (, stop that!) whirlybird except this one had no side doors. I was strapped in front. I was careful, but I also used my video camera (strap wrapped firmly around my wrist) to tape the whole flight.

Another time a barnstorming pilot with his Ford Tri-Motor, the "Tin Goose," visited the airport. My father had ridden in one in 1928 or 1929. He definitely wanted to look inside, but, being a product of the Great Depression, wasn't about to spend money for a ride. I think it was $40 for both of us. Fortunately I had a credit card with me, so we went up.

I flew on airliners a number of times from 19995 to 2000, then again for a brief visit to New York last November.

For some reason, going up in aircraft doesn't bother me at all. But if I look at pictures like this one, my stomach does a little lurch:

Actually, this little version doesn't bother me much, but one place where I worked had it on a wall as a mural. Eeeesh! It's a 1932 photo taken during the construction of Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Then a few days ago someone on Facebook posted a picture of Julia Butterfly Hill, an environmental activist who spent 738 days in a 200-foot redwood tree in Northern California in a successful attempt to save it from loggers:

Even when I was her age (she was in her early 20s then) I never would've been able to do that! Cliffs, being in the open atop a tall building, stuff like that, no thanks! Or if I do get in someplace like that, I approach the edge very carefully. For instance, I did not go out on this rock overhang at Granite Point in Yosemite National Park, but I was at the location where the photographer got this picture:

There's a railing where the photographer and I stood (not together). It overlooks a drop straight to the valley floor about 3,000 feet below. I wished the railing had been maybe a foot higher, but I still looked over it.

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