Thursday, April 2, 2015

TURBULENCE IN TURBULENT TIMES: A TALE OF FEAR

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Until about 10 months ago, I suddenly realized I  have  a fear of flying.   
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…”
             “CYLONE? 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.
             
           

1 comment:

  1. Reading through this blog, I felt a sense of relief. At least, I am not the only one that feels this way.
    I have had my fair share of turbulence experiences. On one occasion (this was after the Airlines PNG crash in Madang), I heard a fellow passenger continually say "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus" behind me, during the turbulence. I nearly had a panic attack.
    I have always put it down to, getting older and knowledgeable.
    Knowing the possibilities of what can go wrong in a plane, high up in the air, at night, in heavy rain fall and strong winds rocking the plane. That was the worst experience ever. I was returning to POM from a trip to Vanimo to visit my Mum, and we had to stay in the air, over Jacksons airport, for about 20 minutes, waiting for two others planes to land safely before we did.
    I guess, I have also put the blame on the TV series about investigating why planes crash (I have forgotten the name, and I am just a tad bit too lazy to google it). I believe that has also played a part in my fear of flying these days.

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