Back before the advent of terrorism, and during the Golden Age of Aviation, one can check luggage without having to pay for them, and enjoy up to 32kgs (70lbs) of weight for each bag. Not anymore. Before then, people seeing somebody off at the airport can also go inside and watch and see the loved one’s aircraft zoom out into the sky. Nowadays, only passengers can get past the security checkpoint. And if you have to go in, you must now secure a gate pass. Before then, flying was a formal occassion, and people dress to the nines. Today, what do you see?….people in T-shirts and sweatpants. There were no X-ray machines, no metal detectors, no taking off of shoes. Today, try going through security check in a wedding dress, because in the 60′s and 70′s I am told that newlyweds can go straight to their honeymoon after tying the knot, still in their formal attire. And because you could check your big bags for free, many passengers simply walked onto the plane with just briefcases and purses. Now, it’s hard to find any room whatsoever in the overhead, due to all the wheeled suitcases crammed in. Toothpaste, hairgels, any liquid that was commonly used for personal hygiene and grooming was allowed on board, in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces…in your handcarry. When I was a young boy, I remember flying to Switzerland with my Dad and being served gourmet food delivered by young and beautiful flight attendants on fine china in real silverware…and with unlimited drinks, the alcoholic kind which my Dad really enjoyed, lol. Today, unless you’re lucky enough to be in first class/Biz class, what will you get? Perhaps a bag of peanuts and/or pretzels, and one (non-alcoholic) beverage. Maybe. And for us flight deck crews, all pilots were respected, with manageable schedules and excellent salaries. Now contrast all that with today’s flying jig…ha ha!
But maybe, just maybe to sum up…and “to understand the fun and splendor that flying lends us…” as you soulfully put it, I know nothing better than to quote John Magge, Jr.’s immortal poem called “High Flight,” and to understand why people fly. Maybe you’ve come across this poem at some time. What’s more remarkable about this poem was that it was composed by a young aviator who was killed at age 19, in 1941 over England’s wartime skies. His poem lives on as one of the classic poems about aviation. And to me, this summarizes the deep feelings of an aviator’s love of flying…and “why do people fly in planes”…and enjoy the fun of doing so.