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Woody: Here's the plane truth!

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By LARRY WOODY

s I watch the endless replays of the guy being dragged off an airplane kicking and screaming, the thought occurs to me:

The only way I'll board another plane is if they drag me ON one kicking and screaming.

I've never trusted airplanes. I can't understand out how something the size of a grain silo can get off the ground, soar into the air, and remain there. Every time I used to fly, I wanted to ask the pilot how he performed the magic trick.

Notice I said USED to fly. Back in my sports-writing days I was a frequent flyer, hopping from city to city. I flew so often I had my personalized air-sickness bag.

But even though I flew dozens of times a year I never grew to like it. In fact, the more I flew the more I dreaded it. No matter how many times you pound your thumb with a hammer, it never becomes more enjoyable.

And remember, this was back in the days when flying was relatively hassle-free. Back before you had to take off your shoes and get groped by a stranger armed with an X-ray gun. (Any day I expect doctors to announce that a generation of flyers has been rendered sterile by airport metal detectors.)

The last time I flew was in 1998 when I went to Tempe, Arizona to cover UT's national championship football game. That was almost 20 years ago. I'm still waiting for my luggage.

When I was the Vanderbilt beat writer I sometimes flew on the team plane. On one memorable trip to Iowa the plane got swept off the runway by something called "wind shear" just as the pilot lowered the landing wheels.

The pilot - apparently an ex-NASCAR driver - cranked the wheel to the left, the plane veered sharply, and flipped sideways. We were so close to the ground that from my window seat I could see the tassels on the corn in the field where we were about to crash.

Stuff spilled out of over-head racks, flight attendants went tumbling down the aisle, and football players dangled sideway from their seat belts. The plane's left wing clipped a few corn stalks but somehow missed the ground.

After we circled and landed, mechanics came aboard with crowbars and pried our fingers loose from the arm rests so we could de-plane.

After the game, the coach blamed the traumatic experience for Vandy's crushing defeat. I suppose it was possible, although some fans wondered what caused the OTHER eight losses that season.

It was also during my Vandy beat days that I flew on a crop-duster to Lexington, Kentucky, for a basketball game. There were six of us jammed inside - two pilots, the Vandy radio crew and me. We flew through a storm that bounced the little plane around like a pin-ball. One of the radio guys got sick. Never eat spaghetti before a flight.

The pilot finally managed to get the shuddering, reeking crate on the ground, and we staggered off to our hotel to change and shower before heading to Rupp Arena.

I know statistics show it's safer to travel by plane than by car. Maybe, but where had you rather run out gas: cruising down I-40 or 5,000 feet over Omaha?

My pal Lewis Grizzard shared my dislike of airplanes. He said it wasn't the flying that scared him - it was the crashing and burning. He wondered why they call the buildings where airplanes land "terminals?"

Oh well, it's somebody else's problem now. I've enjoyed my last lift-off.

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