Whenever I am taking a flight, thoughts cross my mind about flying. Second thoughts too. The whole procedure of booking a flight, going to the airport, and actually flying to your destination has become so unbelievably common that it sometimes seems as if you are just taking a bus. Maybe we often consider it as if we were taking a bus to prevent us from potentially disturbing thoughts about how uncommon flying actually is. Uncommon because unlike any other form of transport you are loose from the earth’s surface. Uncommon because it is unbelievably comfortable with regard to the distance and the terrain you are crossing. Uncommon because you are in a highly technological environment but have no internet or cellphone access.
Being able to fly has been one of the most tangible challenges of mankind, but also one of the toughest challenges. Therefore, the fact that we have been able to get heavy airplanes up in the air is an enormous achievement, something that is almost beyond imagination. The mythical image of aviation may be the explanation for its survival during economic crises, it is sort of keeping the dream alive. But we need enormous enigines (oh my, these things are huge) to keep on dreaming. And since there is no good alternative for jet fuel yet – and I doubt there ever will be – the contribution of aviation to CO2 emissions remains high.
While I care a lot about the environment I do think there is a good thing about flying. From the window of an airplane you see the world from an unusual perspective. Traffic seems to come to a standstill, you can fly over places that are hardly accessible over land, and at night time you can see the amount of light produced by greenhouses. I think that to see these things and to think about them is good for your world view. But this requires that you are consciously taking part in your journey, and that there are no clouds of course.
I hope that there will never be internet and mobile phone access on commercial airplanes, eventhough it is technologically possible. We need it as a subtle reminder that what we are taking part in is uncommon. Look out of the window and tell me what you think about it. But not before you have landed.