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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Wischful Thinking
Flying vs. Traveling

by Jay Wischkaemper

I’m sitting in row 26, seat D of Delta Airlines flight 1945 from Dallas to Salt Lake City. We are level at 31,000 feet -- not that it matters, because all I can see is the brown haze out the porthole five feet to my right. Prior to takeoff, I listened to an overbearing stewardess spend 10 minutes on four occasions reminding us that this was an entirely full flight, and we should be sure and store all our luggage that would fit under the seat in front of us, allowing the overhead bins to be used by late boarding passengers so that the flight would get off on time. Everybody got the message the first time. We didn’t need the other three. At check-in earlier, a lady in front of us got to pay an extra hundred dollars to get her ticket reprinted because Delta had changed her routing, and someone had told her that ticket was no good and she didn’t need it any more. She made a scene, and I couldn’t really blame her. If it had happened to me, I would probably have made a worse one. Other than the taxi speed being so high that Mario Andretti must have been the pilot, the first leg of our flight from Lubbock to Dallas was nice. We then wasted an hour and a half in the DFW airport waiting for our next flight. When our meeting in Salt Lake is over, we will have to wait four hours to catch an appropriate flight, and arrive home, if we’re lucky, 10 hours after the convention ends.

This is traveling.

It isn’t flying.

There is a difference.

Granted, I am sitting 31,000 feet above sea level, but you have to put a totally different definition on the term flying to consider this a true aviation experience. I’m on board this aluminum tube because it costs less for two people to get to Salt Lake this way than I could fly the Bellanca one way, not to mention the hurdles that I would have had to jump through to have gotten Dianna go that far in the Bellanca. Something like convincing the Pope to become a Baptist. But, while enduring the abuse of the airlines, there are times that I wonder if the extra cost of flying isn’t worth it.

The airlines are a reasonably cost effective way of getting from point A to point B. Knowing something about how much it costs to operate an airplane, and factoring in the other costs of operating an entire airline, I don’t see how they do it. But appreciating their frugality still doesn’t overcome the desire I have when riding on one to be doing it myself. To really be flying.

To travel is to get there. To fly is to savor the experience.

To fly is to leave when you want to leave, and go where you want to go. To fly is to make your own decisions about where your luggage goes. To fly means you determine what position your seat back is going to be in. To fly means there is a window at your left or right elbow that gives you a panoramic view of the expanse below you, and at an altitude where you can actually see something. To fly means that you know that town down there is Childress, or Dalhart, or Fort Collins. To fly means you know exactly where you are, and how long it will take you to get where you are going. To fly means you are treated with respect when you stop for gas, frequently having a red carpet laid out to step on as you alight with pride from your plane. To fly means you don’t have to wonder if your luggage arrived at the same time you did, and you don’t wait 15 minutes to have it delivered. To fly means there are no seat belt signs. To fly means there are no overbearing flight attendants. To fly means there are no hijackers. To fly means you can carry your pocketknife. You could even carry a gun if you wanted to. To fly means that you choose the menu for your in-flight meal. To fly means that you choose who you sit next to. To fly means that you don’t have to listen to the 10-year-old chatterbox sitting three rows in front of you blabbing non-stop for an entire flight, or a 40-year-old one who happened to see a friend on the flight and who squats in the aisle next to your seat to catch up on old times. If you have one of those with you while you’re flying, you can pull the mic plug on their headset, or just tell them to shut up. To fly means there are no ticket questions. To fly means there are no metal detectors or x-ray machines. Security is not an issue. To fly means I could leave my cell phone on, knowing it isn’t going to matter.

Granted, I might not get there quite as fast, or I might get there faster. I wouldn’t have had to get up at four in the morning to not miss the flight. I wouldn’t have been standing in any lines. I might have more weather worries, but I would also have more weather choices. I would have had some mountains to navigate on this trip, but how beautiful would it have been to fly a thousand feet above the new fallen snow, perhaps seeing a deer or elk below.
There is a cost to flying, but there is a cost to travel in whatever form you choose to do it. The practical side of me is what caused me to be sitting in seat 26D, wondering what’s going on up front and down below. The side of me that realizes that you only have one life to live, and it should be experienced to the fullest is the side of me that wishes I had left Lubbock at 8 this morning on a 300 degree heading to a fuel stop in Farmington, and then on to SLC, flying, spending tons of money, and enjoying every minute of it.

Texas native Jay Wischkaemper is a long-time partner in a Bellanca Super Viking, based in Lubbock, which he uses for both his life insurance business and for pleasure. Jay and his wife Dianna have two grown children, Jeff and Lisa, and will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary this year.
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