One Big Plane

In 1960 my family moved south from the Maine Coast to a suburb south of Boston. Inbound planes to Logan Airport flew over our neighborhood of split-level houses That first night the roar of an approaching jet disrupted my sleep, while my brother was dead to the world. Somehow I thought one of them was going to crash into our home. My uncle came into the darkened bedroom and said, “All those planes are late flights. Maybe only half-full and everyone knows only full planes crash.”

I took small comfort from his counsel, however my uncle had led his men out of Korea’s Chosin Reservoir in December 1950. He was a hero to me and I went to sleep dreaming of floating planes.

The next day my mother stood in the backyard with her eyes raised to the sky.

“It’s amazing that planes stay in the sky.” My mother had graduated from high school. Her love for reading kept her up late at night. She had no grasp of aerodynamics and my father explained the concepts of how lift and thrust conquer gravity. He was an electrical engineer. I accepted his words as the truth and never suffered sleeplessness from the fear of a crash jet.

This last week I traveled from New York to Dubai on the Emirates’ new A-380. My final destination was Bangkok. The new Airbus was enormous. I relaxed in my seat. More comfortable than a 747. A wide-screen entertainment unit before me. 13 hours to Dubai and I was content to be heading east.

Earlier this month the engine of an A-380 had blown up in mid-air. The plane had descended without mishap or injury to Singapore’s airport. Several friends had expressed their apprehension about the palen’s safety, but I have full faith in the aircraft, although my deceased mother would have marveled at the smooth take-off.

Airborne into the night sky.

The A-380 was SRO, yet I conquered my paranoia about the danger of flying in a full plane long ago. The passengers were mostly Arbic and subcontinental Asians. Few Americans trusted anything from the Middle East after 9/11. To my left was a young Arab woman with her newly-born infant. To my right a Virginian heading to work security.

“Where about?” It was a simple question.

“Someplace I’d rather not say.” His tour of duty was 6 months.

“Oh.” I figured him for an employee of Xe Services LLC working as a bodyguard in Afghanistan. That country has eaten its fill of occupying armies. Only the Mongols succeeded in pacifying the populace. They left pyramids of skulls to whiten in the wind. I kept my views on the eternal war to myself and offered simple advice based of the British Army’s disastrous retreat from Kabul in 1842. “If the shit goes squirrely, then head north. South is all badlands.”

“Yeah, I figured that.” Xe Services LLC must have given their employees an escape strategy based on history. The Pentagon will probably go the other way and that is a hard slog to the coast through Pakistan. All of it bad road.

I eased back in my seat and enjoyed the flight, knowing nothing really bad can happen in mid-air. I was surprised to see that the dinner cutlery was steel. The Emirates Airlines were not scared of Al-Quada and neither was I.

Then again I was bound for Thailand; good food, friends, and family.

Sabaii sabaii.

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