This is your captain speaking...
I think every little kid who has had the opportunity to experience flying in an airplane remembers the feelings of their first flight. For me, these were feelings of excitement, nervousness and just a little bit of fear.
The first time I flew on an airplane was when I was about six or seven years old. My family had moved down to Myrtle Beach, S.C. and we were flying home to upstate New York to visit relatives for the holidays.
As I was packing my suitcase full of winter clothes, I recall being overly excited by the idea that it would only take a few short hours to reach our destination, versus the grueling 12+ hours spent on the road in a car.
When we arrived at Myrtle Beach International Airport, I was still full of excitement when I got to place my suitcase on the large scale and carry my own boarding ticket.
My excitement ceased when we approached the security checkpoint with its ominous metal detectors and conveyor belts that swallowed your belongings up, spitting them out all the way at the opposite end.
I was nervous walking through the detectors, afraid that I would somehow manage to set the noisy alarms off. Thankfully I successfully passed through without a sound, unlike a few other passengers who were not so fortunate with their large belt buckles and watches.
After waiting a while to board our flight, I was also nervous (and even a little afraid) walking along the jetway to get onto the airplane.
Once in my seat with my seat belt securely fastened, a flood of questions swam through my mind.
Will we have enough speed and power to get up into the air?
Is it going to be turbulent flying through the clouds?
How does something as large and heavy as an airplane stay up in the air?
What if we have to use those oxygen masks or seats as flotation devices?
Before I knew it my worries ceased and we were airborne. Flying in an airplane is a unique experience, one that I could never do justice to by describing — it is just something you have to experience. Soaring up into the clouds, I remember feeling amazed and full of wonder while gazing at the sights far below. Homes looked like dollhouses and lakes resembled puddles.
Since my first flight on an airplane I have flown several times, across countries and over oceans.
In college I took the opportunity to study abroad in England, Ireland and Scotland. My peers, professors and myself flew out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on an eight-hour direct flight into Dublin Airport in Ireland. The flight was actually quite enjoyable — we were served dinner, had the luxury of personal movie screens in front of each seat and slept most of the way since our flight departed Atlanta in the evening.
Last year I also flew out of the country again when I spent part of the summer in the Bahamas, flying directly from Baltimore Washington International Airport into Grand Bahama International Airport.
The most nerve-wrecking part about international flying is having to go through customs. While most customs agents ask you the required, "Why are you here — business, school or vacation?" there is always that one agent who is out to make things more difficult.
When I was going through customs at Gatwick Airport in the United Kingdom to fly back into the U.S., a customs agent grilled me on a jar of peanut butter I had in my carry-on bag. He informed me numerous times that I would not be allowed to bring that size jar back into the U.S., but that I was welcome to keep the peanut butter with me so long as I consumed it in its entirety on the flight.
Thinking I would not be capable of accomplishing such a feat, I told him I would gladly forfeit the peanut butter and allow him to dispose of it. But he insisted I take it with me.
I reluctantly complied and unbeknownst to him, discarded the jar on the airplane.
While the majority of the airplane flights I have taken have been enjoyable experiences, there was one occasion that made me feel otherwise.
One winter I was flying to visit a friend on the West Coast, Oregon to be exact. In retrospect, I should have known flying out to a snowy state in the middle of winter would not be free of its hassles.
First, my flight out of Charlotte was delayed due to plane trouble. We had to wait for another airplane to arrive from Oklahoma.
Second, this made everyone on the flight miss connecting flights when we landed in Phoenix later that evening. I was not too keen on the idea of sleeping in the airport and waiting for another flight the next morning.
Finally, while I was fortunate enough to get a seat on the very last flight into Portland International Airport that night, it was delayed due to inclement weather in Oregon. But luckily, I was able to make it to my final destination, albeit more than a couple hours later than my scheduled arrival time.
Regardless of that flying experience not being as enjoyable as the others, to this day it still amazes me how aircraft — whether large airbuses or small jets — gracefully glide through the skies.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to cover the free airplane rides for children event at the Rutherford County Airport. Not only was I excited to get to go up in a single-engine, four-seater plane for my first time, but also to see the ear-to-ear smiles on children who were experiencing their first ever flight — just like me those several years ago.