Tropical Boarding Pass

We have a major project on a neighbouring island. It necessitates me travelling by air. The carrier is a piddly company with 14 seater prop driven plane. There is no assigned seating. You buy your ticket 30 minutes before the flight, and you get a coupon as above to let you pass onto the tarmac. There is no jetway. You have to dash out to the plane.

On this flight, it was raining cats and dogs. The pilot pulled the plane up to the doorway of the terminal so we wouldn't get as wet as walking across the tarmac. I had the seat right behind the pilot. There was no separation between the passengers and the cockpit.

There was no stewardess. Nobody checked to see if seatbelts were fastened. My seatbelt would fasten, but I could not tighten it, and a very fat person sat in the seat before me. You would bump your head on the fuselage if you tried to look out the window. There was no place to stow my carry on laptop so I held it on my lap.

We took off into the driving rain. The pilot turned on the forward looking radar and as we took off, the radar indicated in emergency red, the center of a thunderstorm super cell ahead of us. There was a small area in yellow between an adjacent supercell. The pilot threaded the needle as we were climbing. The plane bounced and jarred.

For the next 15 minutes, the pilot flew by the seat of his pants, trying to avoid the red areas on the radar screen ahead of us. At one point we made it to 11,000 feet. I had an unobstructed view of the cockpit instrumentation. Then we hit a red area and the plane bucked. The next thing that I knew was that my stomach was in my nostrils. I glanced at the altimeter and in that little bump of turbulence, we dropped 800 feet in nanoseconds. I thought that I was going to die. When we landed, I wanted to kiss the ground.

Especially after Air France 447, I am now a believer in terra firma -- the more firma, the less terra.

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