There’s a Man on the Wing!

Apr 04, 2013 View Comments by

There’s a Man on the Wing!My flight from Denver to Phoenix has just pulled out of the gate. It begins to taxi down the runway when a salt and pepper haired man sitting in a window seat above the wing begins to yell. “Stop the plane. There’s smoke coming out of the engine. Tons of it! Stop the plane!” I am torn about putting down my latest copy of RoadRUNNER and giving the man my full and undivided attention. Since I am not a pilot on or off TV, I cannot sensibly contribute any assistance regarding a smoking plane. I casually call upon my high school marching band peripheral vision skills and subtly look in his direction. My crosswise view from two rows back does not reveal any smoke outside the window. However, passengers closer to the man also begin to show concern. The plane continues to taxi with no suggestion of slowing down and no reaction from the flight staff.

The man gets up from his seat making measured eye contact with other passengers, attempting to get anyone to confirm his smoke sighting. He looks at the man behind him and points. Raising his voice again he appears to be accusing the man of smoking! I wonder who would dare smoke on a commercial airliner. I am sure I misheard him. For a moment I think of Richard Reid and the passengers of Flight 63, but quickly push the thought out of my head. No. The man sitting over the wing must be losing it. I do, however, glance at the shoes of the other passenger to verify there are no anomalies with his footwear. The man’s yelling turns to mumbles. His reaction reminds me of William Shatner’s performance in the Twilight Zone episode, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

A flight attendant ushers the man back to his seat and casually looks out the window. She states that the smoke is a common reaction when the engines are started so early in the morning. Moments later we are in the air with nothing more exciting than the usual Denver turbulence.

Flying and motorcycle riding are often considered dangerous forms of travel, even though statistics beg to differ. People unfamiliar with the operations of either method of transportation can sometimes let their imaginations manifest unrealistic scenarios. For those who love to travel there will always be some level of risk. However, the rewards far outweigh the threats. In the end you could just stay at home. But avoiding the possibility of danger is not living . . . it’s merely not dying.

I think back to when my wife and I got married, September 15, 2001, only four days after 9/11. When air traffic resumed on September 13th, my wife’s grandmother was on the first plane out of Cleveland. Many people were scared for her and suggested she not fly to Denver. Her response, “I’ve lived a good life, a long life, and there is nothing that is going to keep me from going to my granddaughter’s wedding!” She was 80 years young at the time. The point is, when something matters you take the risk. She was an inspiration and a great loss when she passed away this past month at the age of 92!

The pressure in my ears is a sign that the pilots are preparing our descent into Phoenix. I left my gum out of reach in the overhead compartment. My backup plan of swallowing hard barely helps. I obediently return my seat and tray table to their full upright position. The flight attendants make their way down the aisle and I begin to power down my computer. The captain announces our arrival into gate “Charlie Eight” ten-minutes ahead of schedule. I assume the early (and safe) arrival is based on having two healthy engines. In the end there was no fire and there was no monster on the wing. Fears were overcome or at least temporarily put to rest.

Epilogue: Whether it’s riding in the rain, navigating around icy road conditions, or sitting helpless in the back of a plane, there is always an adventure to be had when we leave our comfort zone. What is the scariest travel experience that you have lived to tell about?


Tags: Categories: Adventure Hermit

About the author

I am an introvert posing as an extrovert. I love travel in all forms, but prefer 2-wheels. I created AdventureHermit as a way to share my adventures and inspire others to find joy through discovery; writing for RoadRUNNER is a dream come true!