Next Tuesday, I’m climbing into a plane and putting my life in someone else’s hands. Ok, it’s not that much different to letting someone else drive me along the 401 highway, but there’s something about looking out a window and knowing you’re 30 thousand feet above ground that makes a difference to my confidence levels. Especially with all those reports of drunken pilots. And the memories of those planes crashing into the World Trade Towers. So I decided to do a little research about flying.
1. When flying at high altitudes, eyesight deteriorates because of a decrease of oxygen in the tissues. Eating candy, which contains glucose, counteracts these effects. Like I need an excuse, but eating candy comes up in several of the following points, so I’ll be carrying a trusty bag of Werthers with me. (Ask my eldest who came back from his trip to Italy/Greece/Germany with high praise for the tiny candies – and how they helped him and all his classmates.)
2. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), changes in cabin pressure, in addition to low cabin humidity on aircraft, can have various effects on pregnant women, including causing increases in heart rate and blood pressure. (no, this doesn’t apply to me – thankfully at my age – but hopefully there’s no preggies on the flight with me. Or any screaming babies.)
3. Fear of flying is called both Aerophobia and Aviophobia. Whichever name you use, I’ve got it. I’m working on it. It doesn’t stop me from flying, but I admit to being afraid.
4. In the 1988 movie Rain Main, Dustin Hoffman’s character states that a Qantas plane had never crashed. He was wrong. They just hadn’t a jet crash at that point. The very day before I flew to England, my dad very helpfully pointed out that a Qantas plane lost an engine on the runway in Italy. Gee, thanks Dad.
5. Things that have ‘Flying’ as the title: an instrumental song by the Beatles, a song by James Newton Howard on the 2003 Peter Pan soundtrack, a 1986 film, a book by Kate Millett, and several record labels – Flying Fish, Flying Nun, Flying Rhino, Flying Tart.
6. Statistics compiled by the Department of Transportation have led to the conclusion that airline travel is 29 times safer than driving an automobile. Yeah, but at least cars don’t generally fall from several miles above the earth. In the ongoing battle between objects made of aluminium going hundreds of miles per hour and the ground going zero miles per hour, the ground has yet to lose.
7. Reasons why people are afraid of flying: Heights; Enclosed spaces; Crowded conditions; Sitting in hot, stale air; Being required to wait passively; Not understanding the reasons for all the strange actions, sounds, and sensations occurring around you; Worrying about the dangers of turbulence; Being dependent on unknown mechanical things to maintain your safety; Being dependent on an unknown pilot’s judgment; not feeling in “control”; the possibility of terrorism. But one they don’t mention is my own reason – growing up listening to stories your father told you ad infinitum about the number of plane crashes/engines on fire as they wind their way through the Andes/running off the runway into Hong Kong harbour/landing short of the runway in Gander, etc.etc. he’s been in. Especially the granddaddy of them all? The tale about the flight he was ‘supposed to be on’ where he switched with another man and that plane landed short of a runway and flipped over, and the guy he’d switched shifts with ended up getting cut in half. Yeah, real good pictures to carry in your head when you’re flying.
8. One of the dangers of long flights – Deep Vein Thrombosis, often called Traveller’s thrombosis. (It’s a small blood clot that forms in the veins of the leg after sitting for long periods of time – when you stand up after the flight it can move and cause major problems as it travels through your lungs/heart/brain.) So leave several days between long flights. Move around in your seat as much as possible. And if you have predisposing conditions—such as a blood disorder affecting clotting; cardiovascular disease; current or history of malignancy; recent surgery; use of oral contraceptives; recent lower limb trauma; pregnancy; age over 40 yr.; previous DVT; family history of DVT—see your physician before travelling. Hmm, there is a history of DVT in my family, and I’m over 40 … better remember to keep moving around up there.
9. Dehydration can occur from the very dry air in an air craft cabin. You may experience headaches, dizziness, and fatigue – to combat this drink lots of water – at least a cup an hour. Avoid alcohol, soft drinks and caffeine.
10. Ear pain – this is caused by changing in air pressure. In the old days when you used to be served food, the attendants would hand out candies to suck on or gum to chew before you took off. I always pack a small bag of Werthers when I’m travelling – this helps with if my blood-sugar dives and makes you salivate so you’ll have something to swallow to help your eustachian tube adjust to the varying air pressures.
11. In order to keep the security screening processes as short as possible, you should do one of more of the following: avoid packing your carry on bags tightly so that it is easy for the screener to search through them; keep your ticket, boarding pass, and ID within easy reach; wear shoes that can be taken off and put back on relatively easily; and make sure that you can show that any computer or electronic device in your carry on luggage actually works.
12. This is the first time I’ll be flying with a laptop – that’s always been Gizmo Guy’s purview. So … Keep the laptop with your carry-on baggage, they’re right for theft. Be prepared to take it out for inspection – usually GG is told to turn it on to make sure it actually works and isn’t being used to smuggle something within it, separate the data from the laptop – as in a flash drive or DVD rom. I’ve made backups of everything, including sending important docs to my email account as backup. Secure the laptop with passwords – yup, done that. Use alternative electronic devices such as PDA’s and handheld computers. Hmm, not bringing my Palm as it will not hold a charge 🙁 Keep the laptop in sight. Good advice for all your luggage. Oh, and don’t forget to pack your power cord. I learned that one the hard way …
13. And the one piece of advice I always gave Gizmo Guy when he was preparing to leave – make sure you keep the number of take-offs and landings equal. Hmm, not really within my control, but I’ll certainly be clutching my rosary and praying for that …
Four days to take off ….