I don’t know if this is due to the fact that I am becoming older and wiser or because I have a suppressed fear that has emerged later on in life. If the latter is the case, I totally blame my dad for those childhood episodes when he used to throw me up into the air and then catch me in all the craziness of a proud dad trying to heal a scratch or a bruise.
So it happened one day on my way back from Goroka (I live in Lae, by the way) when we became the unfortunate passengers of a dash 8 aircraft that flew in from Mt. Hagen. I won’t mention the airline for obvious reasons.
So the flight began as usual - a smooth take off and then, after five minutes, we hit the clouds. Not just one but several with, of course, air pockets in between.
So the plane began shaking violently. It must have been only for a few seconds, but in that overly stressed organ housed in my cranium, it was an eternity!
What made it worse was that a guy sitting in the next row, became increasingly fidgety and sweated profusely as the turbulence shook the plane again and again… and then… the plane dropped and as if that wasn’t enough… tilted sideways.
“Lord Jesus!” someone yelled from the front.
I just groaned and held on to my seat. I read somewhere that if you hyperventilate during stressful situations, you feel calmer. THAT DID NOT WORK! I was sweating like the guy in the next row. It’s moments like that when irrational thoughts take over. I felt like slapping Mr. Fidgety guy so he would calm down and hopefully… hopefully, I too would feel calm.
As quickly as it started, it was over. And we were into clear skies over Kainantu, then Yonki. If you’ve travelled this route, you’ll know that this is a relatively short flight of a little under 20 minutes. But in turbulence it takes hours.
So fast forward to March 13th 2015. We board a Qantas flight from Port Moresby to Cairns. My mind is focused on all that is to be achieved in Japan which is the next leg of our trip.
At the first hint of turbulence, Cyclone Pam, which was then building up off the coast of Vanuatu, came to mind. I was trying to think rationally again. Do planes fly into storms or over them? The archives in my memory were in disarray.
Then the pilot said: “Please fasten your seatbelts, weather conditions in Cairns are a bit windy because of a cyclone…”
Then we hit turbulence again on our descent.
Fate was kind enough to have the company’s CEO placed beside me in the seat next to me.
“It’s just clouds, Scott,” he said reassuringly. And then added: “Don’t worry, I am with you. If we go down, we will go together.”
Then we landed in Cairns.