I write this on an airplane that is about the size of the ancient Olds 88 I bought decades ago to teach my wife to drive.
If I had a baseball at this moment in time, I could literally bean the copilot, knocking his dorky and over-sized blue hat right off his pinhead.
Since the acne-faced lad won’t start shaving until next year, I don’t think there’s much he could do about it.
Which worries me.
If you’ve ever traveled in New Zealand between Auckland and Wanganui, you’ll know that I am not kidding about Junior (the copilot) or the size of these little prop planes — Beech 1900 D’s.
They hold maybe 24 people, including Junior and his slightly older brother, Skippy, who is piloting this baby bird.
I’m not sure what I like least about this flight:
a) that I am at least 10 years older than the COLLECTIVE ages of the pilot, who might shave but has a squeaky voice, and the copilot, who has peach fuzz and a coat that’s two sizes too big;
b) that the plane reminds me of the kiddie rides outside the grocery store;
c) that the cockpit door is WIDE OPEN so that anyone wanting to go ALL JIHAD would have no problem at all; or
d) that there are no fewer than three people on board who are annoyingly happy and loud and whom I would throw out the window if I knew how to roll it down.
No, that’s not true. I do know what I like least about this flight.
It is the size, or lack thereof, of this alleged airplane.
This has not been a good week for “Twinkies”.
And this Twinkie Plane is flying at about 10,000 feet above really hard ground.
Using little propellers to defeat all that gravity.
And, alas, I have NO GAVISCON left in my briefcase.
It’s not that I am a white-knuckle flyer. I’m really not.
I used to happily fly internationally with no nervous breakdowns at all.
Midget Is Good
In fact, flying internationally gave me the opportunity to celebrate being well over four feet tall and having no legs of which to speak.
So, on the Singapore-to-L.A. flight, when other passengers with actual legs were being smooshed to death and suffering from serious muscle spasms, I had enough legroom to do a Texas two step.
What was even better was that the jumbo jet had FOUR WHOLE ENGINES and it was at least as big and solid as the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING.
On my first international flight, it took awhile to get over the fact that there is no way to explain how the Empire State Building could fly at 32,000 feet.
But in time, the sheer “bulk” of the 747 gave me great confidence.
I reasoned that, if it was TOO BIG to actually fly, then it was also TOO BIG TO CRASH.
This logic, and several adult beverages, comforted me.
At other times, though, my confidence would dwindle along with the shrinking size of the planes.
I think it was because as a reporter I wrote way too many stories about small planes making small holes in the Central Texas ground.
My worst shrinkie-dinky plane experience was work-related and pretty stupid all around.
I was flying from New Zealand to Oklahoma to see my family, so my boss volunteered me to go on a client bag job while I was in the U.S.
My mission was to fly to their HQs in a small town in Utah and pick up some double top-secret information about an upcoming launch.
Our client had been unable to get that info “through official corporate channels”, but I’d arranged to trade a nice bottle of NZ white wine to their P.R. guy for an advance, and untraceable, copy of the media kit.
The bribing bit was easy.
The “getting to the H.Q.” bit was a Beech.
Each leg of the flight got increasingly stressful due to airplane shrinkage.
Leg one: NZ to L.A. in a jumbo jet with four Rolls Royce jet engines. No worries, mate.
Leg two: L.A. to Denver in a DC-10, or suchlike. Not a huge plane, but with three big honker engines. Still relatively painless.
Leg three: Denver to Salt Lake City in a Beech. With two fricken propellers. Tensions rising. Butt puckering.
Leg four: From Salt Lake City to some stupid podunk Utah town, in the TINIEST plane I’d ever been in, with, count them, ONE FRIGGEN propeller, almost certainly pedal-powered by the pilot.
If I had not been totally zonked after 30 straight hours in the air, or waiting, I’d have gone mental on that last leg.
Today, even in an era when smaller is always better, planes should still be big.
With dozens of jet engines.
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