Cockpit Commentary: A Trip to the Past

Flying is dangerous.

That is the somber sentiment I am reminded of from time to time.

Human beings are not naturally gifted with the ability to defy gravity. Yet we did it—at least through innovation and technology. Unfortunately, with such triumph came sacrifices. A lot of trials, tribulations, and tragedies were the expenses paid for sustained flight. But we persevered, evident by the mundane modern flight we experience every day.

As a global society, most of us almost intuitively understand the benefits of air travel; they are immeasurable. Flying saves time, it saves money. It’s good for business. There are countless ways it has collectively improved our lives, directly and/or indirectly.

Commercial flight has been around for decades. What’s your business? What’s your pleasure? Going on vacation? Let us take your bags. Let us accommodate you and make your trip enjoyable.

Originally, that was the ideal vision of air travel and for awhile I suppose it existed. But that fairy tale is pretty much just dust in the wind.

Since 9/11, air travel has been anything but novel and flying seems anything but convenient. The word “luxury” exists but in smaller supplies. Don’t expect a full meal; you’ll get a bag of peanuts and like it. Fees for this and fees for that. Oh wait, you can’t bring that nose clipper on board because it might be a grenade launcher. Security is tight. Terrorism pervades the tarmac. Flight is seriously not a prelude to fascination and fun.

My sunglasses have long ceased to be rose-colored.

More planes in the air mean tireless coordination and navigation to minimize collision. And in addition to increasingly screwy weather in the last few years, there’s an even greater possibility for delays.

You know what else causes delays? Mentally unstable individuals that cause chaos in airport terminals.

I’m sure many of you reading are well aware of the recent LAX incident. It’s sad. Whenever such stories crop up (which seems to be more and more frequent) I shake my head and wonder why. Why do we, despite elevated security, continue to witness threats like this in the news?

I don’t have an answer. But my thoughts often make we wish I could take a special trip to the past, when something like a terrorist on a plane was as uncommon to the natural order as flying cars.

I found this clip. It’s a 1958 Pan Am commercial that displays their 707 jet service.

Would you look at that food? Would you look at that service? The dishes and meals look like a five-star restaurant! Air travel certainly seemed much better.

Of course, that is only a matter of perspective. Flying was comparatively much more expensive right after WWII. The perks of flying were much different as well. Would you rather play with a puzzle (1950s) or watch a Blu-Ray of the latest blockbuster (today)? Would you rather be able to light a cigarette (1950s) or be squished by a nearby passenger’s encroaching waistline?

There are merits and advantages to both decades of flight. I’m not about to begin to tell a reader that the 1950s was perfect for aviation. Watching the above clip might be painful but is it as painful as being poked and probed by TSA officials? That’s your call.

I guess the point of my ramblings is to show that while air travel has advanced considerably, we still have a ways to go. And while more complicated security measures are sure to be enacted, I often yearn for a simpler time. A time when entering a plane wasn’t a pain and your head was filled with wonder not the effects of a migraine produced by bureaucratic red tape.

I guess for now I will have to be content with putting on the occasional rose-colored pair of sunglasses.

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About Mack

Hey, there! This is Mack speaking (although Skylar likes to joke around and call me Mach). I will be your pilot for this evening or any time really. Seriously though, I've flown all around this round ball of land and sea they call the world and know what it takes to have a safe flight. If there's one thing I've learned in the cockpit it's that communication is key. Let me talk to you and share any insight I can provide so you can take off or land when and where you want. Roger that?