Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fly the Friendly Skies

Above: Martin 404 "Silver Falcon;" Below: Douglas Aircraft DC-3

As a small boy, starting at age five or so, I would sometimes go to visit my grandmother, who lived in Lafayette, Louisiana. Though only about sixty miles away from Baton Rouge, that was far enough to crank up short-hop airliners back in the early 1950's, and there were two carriers that made the run: Eastern and Delta.

Me and Wilbur and Orville were contemporaries ...

My mother would put me on the plane with a couple of comic books and by the time I was finished reading them, we'd be landing. Grandma Ruth would pick me up, I'd stay for a couple of weeks, and either fly home, or my folks would drive over and collect me.

The two aircraft I recall flying upon were the Douglas DC-3 and the Martin M404, aka "The Silver Falcon." I liked the second plane better because it was level when it sat on the ground and the DC-3 angled down from the front landing gear to the tail when parked.

Once, the stewardess came to my seat and asked me if I would like to go up front and help the pilot fly the plane. I recall being horrified at such a notion -- "Oh, no," I said, very grave. "I don't know how to fly a plane. We'd crash!"

I didn't understand why she and the other passengers thought that was so hilarious.

No metal detectors. Five-year-olds allowed to travel alone. Okay to go and visit the flight crew.

Not everything in our world has gotten better ...


Bobbe Edmonds said...

I have to admit - the sentiment is true.

In 1995 I went to Indonesia for the first time. Took a bottle of rum on the plane with me in my carry-on, as well as a leatherman toolknife. Various odds and ends. Got through security within three minutes, didn't have to take off my shoes, etc.

Had a lovely flight, and arrived in Jakarta more than a little buzzed.

Those days are like the Dodo now, long gone.

Christopher Wayne said...

First time I went to Vegas I was into photography and had a cooler of black and white film, the real silver based stuff. They did a hand inspection of the film. When security saw the label
saying 'don't open in visible light' on the infrared film. she covered her hand and checked them by feel.

Like you said, days long gone.

jks9199 said...

"Do like gladiator movies, little Stevey?"

Sorry - couldn't resist! I remember when you could actually meet someone at the gate, coming right off the plane. Now... I couldn't even escort my wife all the way to security when she took my infant son on a trip a few months back. (Someone had to stay home with the dog... and I had to work.) The genius TSA idiot wasn't at all helpful...

J. Steven York said...

Last week, as wife Chris and I were leaving through PDX on vacation, the first TSA guy we met was in a jokey mood, and some news items came up in passing. "We never know what's going on here. They never tell us anything. They could blow up the airport and I wouldn't know about it till I got home and saw it on the news."

I think I near about lost bladder control when he said "blow up the airport." It was worse than somebody yelling the F-bomb in church.

Walking into an airport these days is to give up all of your basic freedoms and most of your dignity. It's hard to see how we got to this point.

Going to the airport used to be one of my favorite things. You could actually see the airplanes (landing and taking off, not just sitting at the gate), even if you were there to drop off or pick up (Which is usually what was happening, I never flew on and airliner as a child. My family would have driven to Asia if there had been a bridge.)

My dad flew all over the world on business through, so I went to the airport a lot. And sometimes we would go just for fun, to ride the moving sidewalks and watch the planes.

For that matter, dad often worked as a mechanic or a military contractor, and he'd take me onto military airfields where he worked. I got to climb in and all over all kinds of military aircraft and helicopters. That would never happen today either.

No, it's not always a better world at all.

Todd Erven said...

Watching the Police frisking infants at Christmas was about it for me. I'm so sick of airports.

I can't carry a Leatherman and they'll give me shit over my contact eye-drops yet they'll let me carry a screwdriver as long as it's under 7 inches long?

Dojo Rat said...

Never been on an airplane in my life.
Don't think they would let me on anyway...

Mike Byers said...

Not only did they treat you like a valued customer instead of a potential felon back in the day, the seats were comfortable, too. These days, flying on an airliner is about as much money as you can spend to be this uncomfortable without having major surgery. I'm mighty happy to avoid flying these days, and thankful that there's no place I need to go that requires air travel. In my opinion, the "security" I've seen is mostly an illusion; the last time I felt "safe" on an airliner was back in 1970 when I was carrying a Combat 12, a Browning Hi-Power and a K-Bar knife.