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Around The Sun: Earth Bound

Steve Harrison soon finds that long distance flights are one long bore.

My grandad always said if man was supposed to fly, he would have been made with wings.

On my very first airplane ride, I was taken up to 14,000 feet, the dizzy height where the air gets thin and breathing becomes difficult. Oxygen depletion quickly sets in and decisions become hard to make.

The pilot pointed the plane ground-ward, turned off the engine and we went into a spin. We were over the Lake District in northern England. I could recognise every lake beneath me as we span towards the earth.

“This is what it feels like to fall out of an aircraft,'' said the pilot as we spiralled towards the earth.

I was being pushed back into my seat. The earth seemed to be spinning, faster and faster. I prayed that the pilot knew what he was doing.

“Actually,” he continued “you don’t notice the ground getting closer until you are 1,000 feet above it, then you experience what is called ground rush.

At the last moment the pilot heaved back on the stick, opened the throttle and, clearing tress, we regained altitude.

Two weeks later I was back at 12,000 feet, and this time I jumped out of the plane. With a parachute of course.

I enjoyed my early flights in passenger planes. I managed to persuade pilots to allow me to sit in the cockpit and watch how things were done.

But I ceased to enjoy flying. The time spent between take-off and landing become increasingly boring. Soon I was taking flying for granted. No matter how long the flight I never succeded in sleeping. I was always the one walking around the plane, or standing at the back, willing away the hours, talking to anyone who would lend me an ear.

Right at that time when flying became a chore my mother started to suffer from ill-health. I received long distance calls from anxious sisters. "Steve can you come home soon. Mum is ill. We are worried she won't last much longer.''

So I would fly in from the other side of the world, expect to see my mother on her death bed, and find her bright and bubbly, having fully recovered.

On two occasions I made this emergency trip. On both occasions I found mum looking as though she would last until she was a hundred. But one October I received a call from my ex-wife. Our marriage had ended some time ago. Our infrequent convesations were caustic.

My ex-wife said three words, "Your mother's dead'', then hung up.

I felt numb. I was shocked. I was even more shocked to find that I was not utterly distraught. Too many other dramas going on in my life at that time, I suppose. My mother5 died in the same week as the Queen's Mum. My mum got two lines in the Spenborough Guardian's obituary column.

The Twin Towers terrorist attack had occured the month before I flew to Britain. That meant people were nervous about flying.

(The conclusion to Steve's to this section of Steve'as life story will appear next week).


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