A is for Altitude

ImageI’m afraid of heights. Well, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I’m afraid of falling. When I was a child, I wanted to be an astronaut – until I got my first gander at the Earth from orbit. I almost had a panic attack just watching it on television.

I rediscovered this aversion in high school. I was a member of the marching band colorguard, and we once had the honor of participating in the Chicago Columbus Day parade. The route took us over a bridge that was really nothing more than a metal grate. The instant I realized that I could see below myself, I freaked and had to have a parent escort me over the bridge on the adjacent, non-mesh, sidewalk.

I will never, ever, go skydiving. It goes way beyond the old expression of “why jump out of a perfectly good aircraft?” – I’ve seen those aircraft. They are most definitely NOT what I would classify as “perfectly good” by any stretch of the imagination. And frankly, I don’t care if the wings have fallen off, I am going down with the ship.

Then why, you may ask, did I become a pilot in the first place? Because my fear of falling never bothers me while I’m in an airplane. I’m enclosed. I’m in control. And I have a glorious view that few have the opportunity to experience first hand.

When you first take off in an airplane, you can barely see the end of the runway. As you gain altitude, you can suddenly make out the entire airport as well as the surrounding community. Higher still, and the entire city is easily discernible. Then, perhaps a majority of the state, until – as I can tell you from personal experience – the curvature of the Earth is visible at 45,000 feet.

As your altitude changes, so does your perspective.

In the grand scheme of things, the average, every day human has only had the opportunity to experience this wondrous, bird’s eye view for less than a century. So, next time you’re taking that business trip on a 737 or an Airbus, take a look out the window. There are so many spectacular vistas only available from the perspective of 35,000 feet. Don’t let the view slip away without appreciating how very special it is.

14 thoughts on “A is for Altitude

    1. Why, thank you, sir. I’ve got a kernel of an idea for each day this week, but “F” may prove to be a challenge if I want to keep the series G-rated. 😉

  1. It’s been a while since I have flown but the joy of the flight was always anticipated. It would be somewhat disappointing however if there was thick cloud cover during most of the flight. The top of clouds can only thrill you for so long

    1. I always search for rainbows in the tops of the clouds. That’s how I discovered that they’re actually circular rather than arcs. I also look for dragons, but so far I haven’t spotted any. 🙂

  2. I’m unlucky enough to have never been on an airplane, but when I finally get myself on one (I’m scared of flying having never flown…fear of the unknown perhaps) I’ll be sure to appreciate the view!

    1. Yea! Then my work for the day is done. 😉 You can always smell the roses until you get a chance to drink in the view from above. That’s almost as fun.

  3. Awesome post and hilarous story about the Chicago parade. It’s crazy to me that you’re a pilot and fear heights… ahem… I mean, falling. I get claustophic on planes. I can handle it for a little awhile but then I WANT OUT! Enjoy the ride…

    1. LOL! You’d be surprised how many pilots are afraid of heights. I went to the Grand Canyon with my marching band as well (we were performing in the Fiesta Bowl) and no one could drag me within 50 feet of the edge. I kept thinking that, if I fell, I could probably take a whole roll of pictures before I was squashed at the bottom.

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