Saturday, 4 September 2010

Rivetting Flying And Flying Rivets

The DC3
Where we live is near the flight path of Auckland International Airport; not I hasten to add on the flight path but near enough for me to spot the insignia of departing aircraft.

I like to imagine myself in a forward seat in business class, sipping a welcome drink and nibbling on a hors d'Ĺ“uvre. The joy of leaving for a a far flung destination  has always been with me and this wanderlust hasn't dissipated with age.

It has always been this way.  In earlier days the trips from New Plymouth to Christchurch, with fuel stops at Ohakea and Blenheim were looked forward to with pleasure.

Of particular fascination was the  motorised vacuum cleaner that regularly swept the Ohakea runaway clear of rivets, shed by DC3 aircraft such as ours. 

I was too young to associate these shed metals parts with metal fatigue and the potential catastrophic failure in those days.

The Douglas Dakota DC3 was quite an aircraft and the workhorse of New Zealand's domestic aviation in the 1950''s. Even the Queen arrived in one at New Plymouth airport during her visit there in 1953 and if it was good enough for her........

There was something magical about the throb of the propellers and counting fleeing livestock as we flew overhead at low altitude.

Only once has the joy of flying been replaced by stomach-clenching terror.  This was a white knuckle landing at Wellington airport into the teeth of a southerly storm. 

Flying in old Twin Otter aircraft in the highlands of Papua New Guinea was a doddle compared to the Wellington approach, where the horizon bucked and dipped as we made a shortened landing through a cloud of sea spray.  At one stage just before touch down we were careening sideways to the runway.

I rediscovered the mint in my clenched hand only when we were safely inside the terminal; it was that sort of landing.

Flying in and out of Asian airports in recent years has had its moments including racing a typhoon into Taipei, but nothing compared to Wellington.  I haven't flown for two months and am missing the welcoming warmth of Changi already.

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