Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Beautiful Balloon...Not?

When I was little, I used to sing that song to myself, "Up, Up and Away" by the Fifth Dimension. You might remember it....

Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly we can fly...

Then, and now, I associated this song with airplane travel, since hey, I'm in planes a lot more then balloons. It always makes me feel kind of happy and secure when I'm flying, despite long security lines, uncomfortable seats, plastic baggies I must have visible to security agents so they can see my favorite shampoo and toothpaste get the idea. I sung it to myself just the other day, when both my husband and I were flying on separate flights, on different airlines. I was on United, and expected everything to be normal when out of nowhere, we were delayed an hour on the ground so that they could "defuel" the plane. I have never experienced this defueling before, but apparently planes are not supposed to land with too much fuel, and someone had overfueled it. I watched out the tiny oval of the airplane window as a big truck came out and some guys in jumpsuits who seemed to know what they were doing attached the fuel line. It wasn't exactly the smooth flying experience I was hoping for. In the meantime, my husband was on Southwest, which a day later would be pulling half its flights off the runways for safety checks, as a result of the recent stories about improprieties in the inspections, and planes flying with "distressed fuselage."

The spectre of human error in flying has always reared its ugly head, and times are no different now, when every few weeks or so we are reminded of how close we are to disaster - planes in near collisions, the fatigue of air traffic controllers (not to mention pilots), stories highlighting how antiquated our air travel system is and how things must change if we are to move into the next golden age of flying.

If you'll hold my hand we'll chase your dream across the sky For we can fly we can fly Up, up and away My beautiful, my beautiful balloon Balloon... Up, up, and away.....


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