Memories of  “Flying the Line”

  • Sunrises, seen from high flight levels, that make the heart soar.
  • The patchwork quilt of the Great Plains from FL350 on a day when you can
  • see forever.
  • Cruising mere feet above a billiard-table-flat cloud deck at Mach .84 with your chin
  • on the glare panel and your face as close as you can get to the windshield.
  • Punching out of the top of a low overcast while climbing 3000 feet per minute.
  • The majesty and grandeur of towering cumulus clouds.
  • Rotating at Vr and feeling 800,000 plus pounds of airplane come alive in your hands
  • as she lifts off.
  • The delicate threads of St. Elmo’s Fire dancing on the windshield at night.
  • The twinkle of lights on the Japanese fishing fleet far below on a night crossing of
  • the North Pacific.
  • Cloud formations that are beautiful beyond description.        
  • Ice fog in Fairbanks on a cold winter’s morning.
  • Seeing geologic formations that no ground-pounder will ever see.
  • The chaotic, non-stop babble of radio transmissions at O’Hare or Kennedy during the  
  • afternoon rush.

         The quiet, near silence, of Center frequencies at night during a transcontinental flight.

  • The welcome view of approach lights appearing out of the mist, just as you
  • reach minimums.
  • Lightning storms at night, anywhere in the world.
  • The soft and comforting glow of the instrument panel in a dark cockpit.
  • The dancing curtains of the Aurora Borealis on a winter’s night crossing
  • of the Arctic.
  • The majestic panorama of an entire  mountain range stretched beneath you
  • from horizon to horizon.
  • Lenticular clouds over the Sierras.
  • That brief and tempting glimpse of the runway lights only after you’ve
  • committed yourself  to a missed approach.
  • On a clear day over Austria at FL410 with all of Western Europe in view.
  • The Alps in Winter.
  • The lights of London at night from FL350.
  • Squall lines that run as far as you can see.
  • Exotic lands with their exotic foods.
  • Maneuvering the airplane through day-lit canyons between towering cu’s.
  • At FL410 by day, the deep blue of the sky while at sunrise the black curvature of
  • the earth and the green flash from the emerging sun.
  • The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong Harbor.
  • The softness of touchdown on a snow covered runway.
  • Hearing the nose wheel spin down against the snubber in its well after
  • takeoff.  A delightful sound signaling  that we’re on our way.
  • Old Chinatown in Singapore before it was torn down; modernized and sterilized.
  • Watching the lightning show while crossing the ITCZ at night.
  • Long-tailed boats speeding along the klongs in Bangkok.
  • The quietly turning paddle fans in the lobby of Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
  • Dodging splotches of red and yellow lights on the radar screen at night.
  • The sound of foreign accents---and languages---on the ship’s radios.
  • Luxury hotels---anywhere;  terrible hotels---some places.
  • To paraphrase the eloquent aviation writer, Ernie Gahn:  “The allure of the slit
  • in a ‘China Girl’s skirt”.
  • Sunsets of every color imaginable.
  • The tantalizing glow of the flashing strobe lights just before you break out of
  • the clouds on approach.
  • Yosemite Valley from above.
  • The almost blindingly brilliant white of a towering anvil headed cumulus cloud.
  • A cold San Miguel in Hong Kong after a long day’s flight. 
  • Ocean crossings----any ocean.
  • The taxiway sentry, with his flag and machine gun, at the old Taipei downtown airport.
  • Seventy-thousand-foot-tall thunderstorms in the tropics.
  • Sipping a ‘cool one’ in a luxury hotel lounge while an Oriental typhoon
  • rages outside.
  • Chinese junks bobbing in Aberdeen Harbor.
  • Watching the Latitude count down to ‘Zero’ on the INS and seeing it switch from “N” to
  • “S” as you cross the Equator.  And too, from “W” to “E” at 180° between the
  • Hemispheres in mid-Pacific Ocean. 
  • Wake Island at sunrise.
  • Oslo Harbor at sunset.
  • Icebergs in the North Atlantic calving from Greenland’s  spectacular shorelines.
  • Contrails---anywhere.
  • Pago Harbor, framed by mountains and seas,  always with puffy white  clouds
  • adding sparkle to the scene.
  • The wonderful camaraderie of a great crew---both cabin and cockpit.   
  • The ferry boat races in Sydney Harbor.
  • White picket fences and Maori friends in Auckland.
  • Soft trade winds blowing on to white sandy beaches lined by swaying palms.
  • Double-decker buses in London---on the ‘other’ side of the street.
  • The ‘Star Ferries’ in Hong Kong Harbor.
  • Heavy weight take-offs from the reef runway in Honolulu.
  • Experiencing all the lines of the old Jo Stafford tune:
  • “See the pyramids along the Nile”
  • “See the sunrise on a tropic isle.
  • “See the market place in old Algiers”
  • “Send home photographs and souvenirs”
  • “Fly the ocean in a silver plane”  
  • “See the jungle when its wet with rain”
  • The deafening sound of  tropical raindrops slamming angrily against the windshield
  • accompanied by the hurried slap, slap, slap of the windshield wipers
  • while landing in a downpour in Manila.
  • Landings in the 747 when the only way you knew you had touched down  was the
  • movement of the auto spoiler handle and then the nice comment that followed
  • from the upper deck ‘stew’.
  • Endless ripples of sand dunes across the trackless miles of the Sahara Desert and the
  • bleakness of modern day Mesopotamia.
  • The White Cliffs of Dover and the dozens of WW II airfields still visible  in the
  • beautiful countryside of Southern England.
  • Oom-pa-pa music at Meyer Gustels’ and Schweine Haxen at the “Gas Station” in FRA.
  • Fjords in Norway and the East coast of Baffin Island.
  • The aimless compass, no longer knowing where to point as  you cross the Arctic not far    
  • from the North Pole.
  • The old “Charlie-Charlie” NDB approach into  Kai Tak.  
  • Taking a celestial fix with ‘a million’ stars from which to choose. 
  • “Brain Bags” crammed to overflowing with charts to exotic places.
  • Breaking out of the clouds on the IGS approach to Runway 13 at Kai Tak to see only the
  • infamous ‘checkerboard’  and then that immediate “point your wing tip at THAT
  • third floor balcony apartment, skim the roof and line up for the landing.  FUN!
  • The wonderful smell of tropical flora when disembarking at Nandi, Fiji.
  • The thrill of an empty weight take-off in a Boeing 747SP.
  • Main gear touching the runway while your 747’s cockpit is still 70 feet in the air.
  • The coziness of that same cockpit along with the teamwork of good FIR’s and FEO’s.
  • The complex twists and turns of the noise abatement departure out of Osaka’s
  • old downtown Itami airport.
  • The Canarsie approach into JFK.
  •      Max gross weight take-offs and maximum cross-wind landings.
  • A large handful of ‘Thrust Levers’; each connected to 50,000+ pounds of thrust.
  • LDA DME Approach to HNL 26L (via Waikiki)

Ah yes----and to think I got paid to do all that!

           Original author unknown

Contributed by Gar Bensen


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