I was never one for flying. If man was meant to fly we’d have wings? Actually it’s not a fear of heights; it’s more of a control thing. I do fly quite often, so it’s something I’ve got used to. But there remains a level of apprehension every time I’m not on terra firma. The flights to Bogotá did nothing to resolve my fear. We were taking two flights, one from Dublin to Newark, one from Newark to Bogotá. The Dublin to Newark flight started well, all routine stuff with standard grub and a few movies. About an hour from Newark it all turned sour. Turbulence doesn’t properly describe what was happening – think about a one hour rollercoaster ride and you would get a better picture. I have a habit of watching TV shows about airplane disasters and it doesn’t help in these situations. I’ve learned a lot of things that can go wrong with planes and I’m always watching for signs. There were plenty of signs on this flight – we were all asked to prepare for landing about 40 minutes from Newark, the real-time flight display was switched off, the cabin crew looked anxious, there was no information from the cockpit, and we were bobbing up and down like a yoyo on acid. I assumed an emergency landing was on the card. Thankfully I was wrong. I guess they were all just precautions given the weather conditions and the crew safely got the plane on the ground. Actually the landing was particularly good. Surprisingly there were no claps on landing – I think everyone was still is mild shock.
I thought the Newark flight was bad, but the Bogotá flight put a new perspective on the first flight. At least on the first flight we had about 6 hours of relaxation before the turbulence. On the second flight, it was relentless from the get go. It was obvious we were flying through some serious weather and the pilot confirmed our suspicions after about 20 minutes in the air. The instructions were clear – everyone was to stay in their seats with belts fastened. This included the cabin crew – food a luxury item on this flight. We were flying at an abnormal altitude as all flights were being directed through a narrow passage in an attempt to avoid the storms. Normally turbulence lasts a few minutes, maybe a half hour, but this was a 7 hour flight and no sign of the conditions abating. The lady close-by with rosary beads wasn’t helping. I am a believer, but it was compounding my paranoia. Thankfully Sharlene had muscle relaxants / sleeping tablets – I’m not sure what they were, but I would have taken 50 if given the chance. Anything to minimise consciousness. I tried to think logically about the situation. What’s the worst that could happen? OK, the worst scenario is death. What if that happens? Well, there’s nothing that can be done at this stage. It’s not under my control. I’ve had a great life to date. If it ends early, well this must be our fate. This thinking actually helped me or perhaps it was the tablets. Either way I did manage to curb the panic within and relax. Eventually we did land safely in Bogotá and the sense of relief was overwhelming – almost as if I was getting a second chance at life.
Passage through passport control was relatively straightforward. I was expecting complex time-consuming procedures, but all was efficient. Well, that was until we got to the baggage terminal. It seemed Continental only managed to get half the bags onto the plane and ours were missing. I should have been annoyed, but I actually didn’t really care. We were safe and that put perspective on the baggage issue. It did take a long time to catalogue the missing baggage, but eventually we left airport and I’m not in any rush back!