Plane & Pilot
Saturday, October 1, 2005

Through The Eyes Of A Ferry Pilot

Observing places, people and planes is part of the job

Predictably, tops were well above me on the crossing, but as I approached Greenland’s east coast, the clouds began to dissipate, and the ice began to sublimate. Midway across the icecap, the clouds disappeared completely, and I was gifted with a view practically to the bottom of the Northern Hemisphere’s largest island. When I circled down over Narsarsuaq four hours after takeoff, the airport was luxuriating in temps of 20 degrees C. The turnaround took only 45 minutes. Oh yeah, fuel was $10.50 per gallon.

From there, it was an easy 3.7 hours to Goose Bay and only 3.3 hours on down to Bangor. The following morning, I flew through the remnants of a hurricane to Cleveland and Kokomo, and then continued on into Waco.

My Southwest Airlines flight home out of Dallas-Love was a typical zoo, although Southwest probably does better at handling its huge human traffic load than most other airlines. It’s not hard to understand why Southwest is the leader of the low-cost carriers and, more than coincidentally, the most profitable airline in the world.

As one who spends an inordinate amount of time sitting on airliners flying around the world, however, I couldn’t help noticing a few things about the travelers on the trip home to Southern California. First, it seemed that roughly every other man (and a few women) in the boarding line was talking on a cell phone most of the time. Depending on your point of view, cell phones are either one of the most convenient innovations of modern times or an insult and curse to civility. Most users seem not to understand how rude it is to others to blather loudly on their cell phones while waiting in line, finding their seat, stowing baggage in the overhead or strapping in. Bluetooth users can do it in stealth mode with an earpiece strapped on so there’s not even a need to hold the cell phone. If it wasn’t so amusing, it would be even more irritating.

Like many of you, I own a cell phone, two of them, in fact, and yes, I do sometimes use one in public, but I hope I’m not so inconsiderate as to assume that everyone within earshot should be obliged to hear my side of the conversation. In fairness, cell phones do make communications more of a 24/7 process, allowing those with a need to stay in touch from practically anywhere. I have a satellite phone for communications from some islands in the South Pacific and other remote locations (at a price), but again, I try not to impose my conversations on others. Many states are considering bans on the use of cell phones while driving and in certain public venues, and that can’t come soon enough.


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