I hate flying. I just do, and, unfortunately, I have to do it all the time. I just fool myself into forgetting about my least favorite part of the ordeal: the turbulence. It isn’t the jostling itself that gets me bent out of shape, it is the anticipation of the turbulence. My least favorite experience is when you are strapped into a plane, you know you are about to fly into some sort fucked-up, loop-de-loop in the jet stream.
I’m usually flying United, listening to Channel 9, so I probably already know that turbulence is approaching because I’ve been listening to ride reports from other airplanes on the same frequency. I’ve also likely checked the turbulence potential for the route at multiple altitudes and I have a general sense of what the PIREPs looked like in the general area. Whilst waiting at that gate I’ve tracked down the previous two flights on the same route and I’ve examined the altitude and speed profiles for telltale signs of turbulence.
I’m not OCD, really, I’m not. But, about this I am. I dislike turbulence. I dislike turbulence so much that I’ll rearrange flights to avoid it. “Hmmm… the cloud pattern over Iowa looks a lot like that bow-shaped derecho we had back in 2008.” I’d rather drop down several Benjamins than have to experience severe turbulence.
So, back to this flying experience. You know it’s approaching, the pilots usually don’t say anything until two or three minutes before they expect it to hit. As a passenger, you’ll hear that single tone telling someone to call the pilots. Maybe if it is going to be really fun turbulence you’ll see a stewardess make one of those nervous, “It’s my job to not to look freaked out” faces. Without fail the Captain always comes on and says something like, “Well folks it looks like things are about to get a bit ‘bumpy’…..”.
This is when I can’t stop thinking back to second year at UVA taking classes in Materials Science, one of which seemed to dwell quite a bit on air disasters – the professor was a lanky, older man who seemed to take a special glee from saying things like, “These cracks were impossible to discover, they had no idea they were even there until, one day, the wings fell off…. go figure.” There was also that advanced class in Complex Numbers during which the professor (an expert in airfoil design) said something like, “Yep, these are the equations and if they work it’ll fly, but no one understands exactly why”.
See, so the lesson of this blog post is easy: If you want to enjoy commercial aviation, don’t get an Engineering degree, and, if you do, find a way to avoid taking a class on Materials Science and a class on Complex Numbers. It will ruin you for flying (and it will ruin suspended hotel walkways and suspension bridges, but maybe that’s a whole separate blog post).
I’ve been told it has something to do with lack of control, but I think it has more to do with the fact that I’m skeptical of flight in general. The jury still seems to be out in the whole, “Why do things actually fly?” debate with articles like “Bernoulli Or Newton: Who’s Right About Lift?”.
So what’s the point of this blog post? There is none. Sorry. I hate flying.