Modern air travel just isn’t made for big people — or for the people seated next to big people.
On one of the legs of my recent trip I was seated next to a guy who probably weighed about 350 pounds. He had the window seat, and I had the aisle seat. He wedged himself into his seat the best he could, but there was a clear spillover effect; he took up the entirety of our shared armrest and a chunk of my airspace, too. The only way I could accommodate his bulk was to sit twisted sideways. I was very glad I had the aisle space to one side and wondered about how cramped and uncomfortable it would have been if I’d had the window seat. Fortunately, it was a relatively short flight — but even so I was nursing a backache by the time the flight ended.
I’m not dissing big people here, but I think this is an increasing problem with modern air travel in America. Seat space on planes keeps shrinking, and Americans keep expanding. Obviously, that’s a problem, and it’s just going to get worse. Airlines want to pack as many passengers as possible into their planes — as the picture I took on the flight shows — and they aren’t going to reverse course on seat width and leg room, and Americans are, on average, heavier than ever.
What’s the solution? Make passengers disclose their size and, if they are above a certain point, make them buy two seats? Have a special heavyweight section with larger seats? I’m not sure, but something needs to be done. If you draw the short straw and are seated next to a big person on a flight, you just aren’t getting the same experience as passengers seated next to normal-sized folks. Why should somebody who has to endure an uncomfortable sitting position and has their personal space invaded by a stranger for the entire flight be charged the same as somebody who doesn’t? It really isn’t fair.
A forest of towering tail assemblies dominated the horizon when I looked out my airplane window this afternoon, while my plane was cruising down the tarmac of the Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C.
When we got to the dock on Lake Temagamito unload our gear, we got a treat: a chance to see a bright yellow, single engine float plane rev up the engine to maximum velocity (and volume) and take off. It’s the kind of sight a ground-bound flatlander who lives far away from the nearest large lake won’t soon forget.
It was very cool to see the plane sending up spray as it bounced across the surface of the lake, until the pontoons finally cleared the water and the plane then rose up and over the trees on the shoreline. I found myself consciously pulling for the pilot to make it, even though the plane has probably done so countless times. Go, baby, go!
I’m not sure I’d want to fly in a float plane as a matter of course — without some form of ear protection, at least — but it was sure was fun to watch it take off.
Some of the older planes at today’s gathering at the Griffing Flying Service airfield had more panache than their modern counterparts. The older planes were like the Apple products of their day, where attention was paid not only to engineering, maneuverability, and speed, but also to style and packaging and presentation. This plane, with its bright aluminum frame, sharp colors, and sleek propeller assembly, had a very distinctive art deco feel — with the emphasis, perhaps, on the art.
When we landed on our flight in from Pelee Island this morning, the Griffing Flying Service field in Sandusky, Ohio was covered with brightly colored planes. Chapter 50 of the Experimental Aircraft Association was having its fly in, drive in pancake breakfast — which meant we had to take a closer look at some of the planes.
There were lots of cool planes there, including some vintage aircraft. My favorites, however, are the biplanes, with their parallel wings and struts and open cockpits. I’ve loved them since I was a kid and read a book about World War I aviators called Knights Of The Air. No Red Barons were visible during our visit, however — or goggles-wearing beagles, either.
Yesterday I flew to New Orleans through Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. As we landed at Dulles, the pilot announced that on the left side of the plane we would pass the space shuttle, still atop the special plane that carried it, piggyback, to D.C. so it can be displayed at the Smithsonian. Pretty cool!
Of course, I was on the right side of the plane. So, as the people on the left side of the plane oohed and aahed and took pictures with their phones, blocking their windows in the process, people on the right side of the plane craned their necks to get a crappy look at the shuttle.
This happens to me all the time. Whenever the pilot announces that my plane is passing something interesting — the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Grand Canyon, the mother ship of an approaching alien invasion — I’m always on the other side of the plane. Always! I never get to look out my window and enjoy the life-defining sight.
What’s the appropriate etiquette in that situation? Elbowing your way across the passengers on the other side of the plane to get a better view? Asking the lucky folks to talk a picture with your phone to dimly capture the moment? Insist that the pilot loop the plane around so that, for once, you can see the landmark from your side of the plane? My choice is always to sit in grim-faced silence, cursing my luck — and then hoping that the pilot stops being a tour guide and gets back to the job of getting to the destination and putting the plane safely back on the ground.