Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not Easy Flying Queasy

Ten days before my vacation starts I called the airlines to confirm my reservation and to see if there might be a better seat than the one I'd reserved for the Pacific crossing, 52A, a window on the left hand side. The reservations agent informed me the seat map was now under "Airport Control" which seemed pretty far out for a flight that was not oversold and probably not even full.

I have to have a window. I'm a sight seer when I fly and I prefer to snuggle against the sidewall instead of my neighbor's shoulder. I have to see as well as feel the sensation of take-off and to watch the wing flap whenever there is a good patch of turbulence. Additionally,the stars at night, high mountains, fireworks from the air or even Christmas lights across an entire city are each beyond words to describe. I enjoy spotting landmarks on the ground or trying to find ships at sea, maybe even another airplane, as seen in this picture here. I was on United in a 747 flying back from London to Chicago and we passed this Northwest DC-10 heading to Detroit somewhere over Canada.

Why the fuss? Unbeknownst to many there is in fact a physical difference in terms of the flying experience if not the dimensions of the seat itself. In my experience the ride just where the wing joins the fuselage is the "sweet spot," the smoothest on the plane. It's also a question of being "positive" to the center of gravity during flight. Airlines like to "attack" the air at a modest upward angle, anywhere from 1-5 degrees "positive angle" from a pivot point somewhere between the leading and the trailing edge of the wing. On take-off, being forward of the wing brings the sensation of stepping up in to the air with the airplane instead of sitting behind the wing and feeling like I'm about to scrape my neverminds on the ground before lifting them and me safely skywards.

The worst part, however, is during the flight. Super-long airplanes like the old DC-8 Super 60s or any "stretched" model such as the current record holder, the A340-600 shown here, have a tendency to "fishtail." Flight attendants on the "Stretch-8" would often say they felt that they were dancing down the aisle as they swayed to the rhythm of the airplane sashaying from side to side through the air. Add up all that bootylicious hip swinging plus the up and down bump and bounce of take off and normal flying and...I'd rather not.

No, the fuselage won't open up like a twist can of biscuits, so calm down. I've got about 17 hours of late evening and overnight flying in front of me to get where I'm going so indulge me a little perspicacity in picking out where to plant me backside.

Besides, don't forget who gets off the plane first!

Gotta go!

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