Flying Is for the Birds

John W. Pinkerton

Flying is for the birds.

I’ve flown, reluctantly.  The last time I flew, I had just been discharged from the service and was flying out of New York to return home to Texas.  As the plane strained, vibrated, shook, groaned, creaked, belched, screeched, grumbled, and moaned in protest of a sharp turn it was being requested to make after leaving the earth, it occurred to me that a metal object weighing tons should not be able to leave the grasp of earth without benefit of an unnaturally large explosion.  I understand the principles of lift and thrust: I just suspect they are mighty thin wires to hang one’s hopes on.

When I was a little kid, five or six, Dad took me up in a friend’s Piper Cub.  I was young, and when one is young, one does not question flying.  One doesn’t really question much of anything.  It’s all pretty much magic.

The next time I flew was when I flew from Oklahoma to New York and on to Stuttgart, Germany, to serve for a year and a half guarding Germany from those pesky Russians.  The flights didn’t bother me much: I had bigger issues on my mind.  At least they didn’t transport me across the Atlantic in one of those throwup machines called ships.

Linda seems to have no fear of flying.  She does it without questioning its validity.  If it’s too far to drive, she flies.  I guess most folks are like her.

I, however, am not like these folks: I may not be as extreme as John Madden, who, apparently, has a real fear of flying, rode in a bus across the country to make his excellent broadcasts.  John really has a fear of flying.  I, on the other hand, am not fearful: it just doesn’t make sense to me to place myself in a metal machine which if it crashes offers me little or no hope of survival.  Yeah, yeah, I know the statistics of miles traveled by folks to number killed.  I don’t care.  I get more than a little uneasy when I’ve ridden in a van without an exit door next to me.  I’m serious.

Many people dream of flying: I mean like a bird.  I don’t have this dream any more, but when I did, I crashed even then, not fatally: I wasn’t going very fast or flying very high, but, nevertheless, the crashes were disturbing.

The tale of Icarus is supposed to teach the lesson that we should not fly too close to the Sun: we should hold our pride in check.  I interpret this as just another tale of flying gone wrong.  A man flying with bird wings makes about as much sense to me as a bird flying with man wings.

I understand youths wanting to fly in spite of the dangers.  When we’re young, we are bullet-proof.  I had my stint of being bullet-proof: I got over this impression as life beat the crap out of me enough for me to realize that my armor has chinks.

A big part of my reluctance to fly is the lack of control one has as a passenger.  You have actually zero votes in the conduct of the pilots.  I don’t even like to be a passenger in a car, but at least I know who the driver is and whether they are trustworthy or not.  Who knows what’s on the pilot’s mind.

If I were someone who had to fly on a regular basis, I would buy my own plane and become a pilot.  At least I would know who crashed the plane.

I admire birds and their grace in the air, but do not wish to emulate them.  They never had to calculate lift and thrust.  They are born to fly, not me.

Wilbur and Orville, nice invention: it’s just not for me.


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