This piece of writing is an extract from my novel "Toggenburg" It's not a sex story as such but I post it here for a dear friend who I learned to my surprise had never flown on an aeroplane! Since this chapter was about a character's first flight on an aircraft i decided to post this for a little fun and to whet the appetite of my beloved shewolf for her first journey into the realms above.
The following day dawned bright and sunny although there were still clouds about clinging to the sides of the mountains. Sarah was up early; jumping excitedly out of the bed she shared with Daniela at five o’clock like a big k** on Christmas morning as Daniela observed in amusement. Sarah couldn’t help it. It was a morning of departure that stood in stark contrast to her last leaving of the Toggenburg. Then she had left in a doom filled cloud of melancholy and fear. Today however the promise of the forthcoming journey was anything but. She was excited and eager to be away. She’d spent the evening before animatedly packing her bags in preparation and continuously nagging Daniela for advice. Daniela had teased her mercilessly until, finally exasperated by Sarah’s agonised indecision, she had dragged Sarah down onto the carpet in a wrestling match that had culminated satisfactorily for both of them. But Sarah’s excitement grew by the minute. It did not matter where they were going. Anywhere with Daniela would be an adventure even if all they were going to do was stay in a little country hotel for a few days. Life with Daniela, Sarah was beginning to learn, was an adventure.
Daniela refused to be moved out of bed at such an unholy hour so Sarah padded through into the bathroom to take a shower alone. The bathroom was somewhat messy. They’d made love among the bath suds the previous night and it had had a somewhat deleterious effect on the usually meticulously tidy bathroom. Sarah showered happily, tingling in anticipation. She dried her hair carefully and wrapped a robe around her before re-entering the bedroom. Sitting at the dressing table she applied cosmetics to her face. She had never in her life put her make up on so early in a morning she reflected. Daniela emerged sl**pily from the bedclothes. “For Christ’s sake come back to bed Sarah! We’ve got ages yet!”
“I can’t! I’ll spoil my make up.”
“Why the hell are you getting tarted up so early? We haven’t even had breakfast yet!”
“I just want to be ready so we can go as soon as we can.”
Daniela sat up in bed with a sigh. “Oh well it looks like there’s going to be no lingering in the bed this morning. I’ll go and put some coffee on.” She heaved herself out of bed, grabbed a robe and, pausing to kiss Sarah in passing, walked out of the bedroom. Sarah paused in her preparations to regard her choice of costume for the day hanging on the wardrobe door with pleasure. Daniela had insisted on her wearing it today and Sarah had put up a certain degree of resistance to the order. It was a short summer dress in violet and white and belted with a gold sash, bearing the name Gucci on the label and with a ridiculously expensive pair of matching gold, high heeled sandals to match. It was daringly short. Sarah had protested that it barely covered her bottom with any decency and that the material was so light that even the merest puff of breeze would threaten to seriously compromise her modesty. But Daniela had made her try it on and she’d been so effusive in her praise that Sarah’s resistance had crumbled. It was stylish and sexy and even Sarah had had to admit that it flattered her figure and her shapely legs. It made her look, she realised ruefully, like a pop star’s girlfriend! There were a dozen more comparable outfits jostling for space with her old blue jeans in her bags as well. Daniela was evidently intending to introduce the new love of her life to the public eye in style it seemed.
If Sarah was eager to be away then the same did not seem true of Daniela for she insisted upon taking a leisurely breakfast and spent so long on her own preparations that Sarah began to gnaw at the bit in frustration. As the final preparations dragged on interminably to Sarah it seemed, she began to chivvy Daniela impatiently. “For God’s sake Sarah calm down!” Daniela told her from her position at her dressing table. “There’s still plenty of time.”
“Shall I go put the bags in the car?”
“No honey! Now just take a seat for a few minutes and settle down.”
But it was hopeless. Daniela was apparently never going to be satisfied with her make up and Sarah began to pace the room. “It’s nearly eight o’clock Danny! I thought you said we were setting off at eight.”
Daniela packed her cosmetics away and took a last critical look at herself in the mirror. “And so we are. Our car should be here in a few minutes.”
“Our car? What do you mean?”
“We’re getting picked up Sarah dearest. You didn’t think I was going to drive did you?” She was interrupted by the sound of a car hooter from the drive in front of the house. “Ah that’ll be our car now. He’s a bit early. Grab the bags sweetheart and we can get under way.”
Perplexedly Sarah picked up her bags and walked to the front door. To her astonishment there was a large silvery limousine parked in the front drive with a uniformed chauffeur standing alongside in a dignified fashion. Daniela emerged behind her and greeted the driver warmly. “Morning Joe!” She placed her bags on the doorstep. “Joseph will put our bags in the boot Sarah.” she told Sarah.
Sarah was still blinking in shock. “You mean we’re travelling in that?”
“Some of the way sweetheart.”
“Does this guy work for you?”
“No he’s an employee with a private car hire firm darling but I always use him when I need a driver.” Joseph stowed their bags away smartly and then held the car door open for them. Sarah sidled into the roomy interior self consciously and gazed around in amazement at the luxurious upholstery, drinks cabinet, television set and stereo system. She’d never been inside such a classy automobile in her life, not even when she’d been a bridesmaid for one her school friends a couple of years before. Joseph climbed behind the steering wheel and the big car purred smoothly out onto the little road to Schwendi.
Sarah was still shocked by the unexpected mode of transport. “Where is he taking us to then Danny?” she inquired agitatedly.
“Just to get our connection Sarah.”
Sarah’s astonishment grew. “Our connection? You mean he’s driving us to the station? Are we going by train then?”
“No darling he’s driving us to Kloten.”
“Kloten?” It took a second to register in Sarah’s brain. “Kloten! You mean the airport? He’s driving us to Zurich airport?”
“Well honey apart from the constant jet noise I’m sure that Kloten is a very pleasant suburb of Zurich but, with all due respect to the people that live there, I shouldn’t imagine that there are many other things to attract the traveller in Kloten.”
Sarah grew pale and her mouth was suddenly dry. “You... you mean we’re going on an aeroplane?”
“What else do you expect us to do at Zurich airport? Spend the day browsing around the kiosks?”
“What’s the matter honey?”
“Danny I... I’ve never flown in an aeroplane before!”
“You have got to be joking!”
“No seriously. I’ve never been on a plane in my life!”
Daniela leaned back in her seat and laughed until the tears ran down her cheeks. “Oh God Sarah! You are just priceless! This is delicious! I’m taking you on your first aeroplane flight! This is going to be even better than I thought! Oh Sarah! Life with you is just so much fun!”
“Don’t laugh at me! I’m scared!”
“I’m not laughing at you darling! I’m just laughing for the sheer joy of you. Don’t be frightened sweetheart. I’ll hold your hand. It’ll be fun you’ll see. You’ll enjoy it.”
Sarah was not convinced. The car wound its way sedately down the hill from Schwendi to Unterwasser, attracting the notice of the local people with its regal passing. Sarah found herself cowering down in the interior out of embarrassment every time they passed someone she knew and Daniela’s amusement grew. Sarah felt a degree of relief when they finally hit the main road at Unterwasser and began to pick up speed along the valley bottom. They made good time through the towns and villages of the Upper and Lower Toggenburg and near Wil they joined the autobahn heading west and the driver eased the big car up to an effortless one hundred and twenty kilometres an hour. Sarah’s earlier excitement had been replaced with trepidation and she grew silent as they sped past the turnoffs for Winterthur, bypassing the city to the north and drawing closer to the outlying districts of Zurich. Soon there were large overhead signs across the motorway bearing the stylised silhouettes of aircraft as symbols to indicate the nearing proximity of Switzerland’s largest airport and Sarah’s nervousness became tangible. Daniela took her hand in the car and perused her anxiously. “You’re really worried about this aren’t you honey?”
“I... I can’t help it Danny. The thought of flying in a plane just seems to terrify me.”
“Darling the most danger you are in over this trip is right now. You’re statistically hundreds of times more likely to be killed or injured driving in this car than you are in an aeroplane. Relax sweetheart it’ll be just fine. What is it you always say on the mountains? It’s not as hard as it looks.”
“If I’m climbing in the mountains my life is in my own hands Danny not those of somebody I don’t know and can’t even see!”
“You do that all your life Sarah. Every time you board a train, a bus or a taxi you’re placing your life in someone else’s hands. Even if you’re just crossing a street, eating a meal in a restaurant, walking across a bridge, sitting down in a cinema or buying a product in a shop your health and safety is dependent on the competence and trust of complete strangers. That guy in that BMW right alongside us could suddenly go mad and drive straight into us but we trust him not to. Yet the pilot who will fly our plane is almost certainly far more skilled, competent and trustworthy than him. He’s probably logged tens of thousands of flying hours with absolute reliability and without incident. Air travel is statistically the safest mode of transport on the planet. You’ll be safer than walking along a promenade!”
“I’m afraid logic hasn’t got a lot to do with this Danny!”
“It’ll be fine Sarah. Trust me.”
On the outskirts of Zurich the road system became complicated and the autobahn divided in several places and the traffic became heavier. Their driver was experienced in the route to the airport however and he wove through the streams of traffic onto the Unterlandautobahn, the stretch of motorway that serviced the International airport at Kloten. Their proximity to the Flughafen was underlined by a deep rumble above. Sarah glanced nervously out of the window. A large jetliner was on its final approach, so low above the road that Sarah could read the writing on the fuselage. She shivered involuntarily. It seemed impossible that this great metal monster could stay aloft on its thin looking wings. As they pulled off the autobahn Daniela reached in her handbag and pulled out two pairs of large dark sunglasses. “What are these for?” asked Sarah.
“Elementary anti-paparazzi precautions sweetheart. We’re coming up to the terminal now so let’s keep a low profile shall we. I don’t imagine for an instance that there’s any advance news of our departure but there’s no need to draw attention to ourselves. We don’t want to be swamped by casual travellers with cameras on their mobile phones either so let’s keep it tight.”
“Does it matter if any old person photographs us?”
“Sure it does. Last year some arsehole with a camera got a hugely embarrassing shot of me. I had this low cut top on and I was bending down to pick up my bags and suffered a costume crisis. There was a picture of my right tit all over the papers the next day!”
“Well if we’re trying to sneak through the airport inconspicuously why are we both dressed up in a way that would start a riot in a monastery?”
“A sort of compromise dear. We don’t want to be seen but if we are we have to make damn sure we’re looking our best!”
“That’s completely illogical!”
“That’s life at the top darling! Nobody said it had to make sense!”
“Good grief! This is weird!”
“Heads up Sarah! Here’s the terminal now. Let’s get ready to rock!”
The car pulled up by the terminal entrance and Sarah was surprised to see two uniformed baggage handlers make a direct bee-line for the limousine. Almost as soon as they were stopped their luggage was loaded onto an electric motorised trolley and they were whisked away into the airport. It was not the first time Sarah had been to Zurich airport. She had visited several times before, fascinated by the bustling conglomeration of airy light filled buildings crowded with travellers. She had lingered among the cafes, bars and restaurants or wandered about the boutiques and kiosks. She had taken drinks in the panoramic cafeterias on the upper floors and watched the aircraft landing and taking off in a seamlessly endless stream. The airport had seemed like some magic portal to her; a gateway to a world beyond she had rarely glimpsed. It wasn’t just that the aeroplanes were flying to exotic destinations far beyond the limited confines of her life but also that they were climbing up into a medium of which she had no experience. Only stood atop a high mountain had she come close to the rarefied element into which these machines ascended daily. She had watched them in bewitchment feeling curiously dull and earthbound set against the magnificence of their flight. She had watched parties of travellers, of obviously long experience, waiting for their planes, impatiently or bored, and wondered how they could ever lose their thrill of adventure in stepping aboard such incredible machines or find their achievement mundane. She had often come away from the airport feeling oddly dissatisfied and unfulfilled as if the sky and the horizons beyond it had called out to her and she had turned away timidly from their siren’s enticement. She could not imagine an aeroplane flight as being routine. She had vowed to herself that one day she would dare to step aboard one of those great shining metal birds and find the sky for herself. She just hadn’t expected it to happen so soon. She had awoken this morning with no idea that such a chapter in her life was about to open and that a great adventure long dreamed of and feared was about to begin. She felt her senses enhanced by excitement and dizzy with approaching panic.
Given her choice she would have preferred to have arrived at the airport hours in advance of her scheduled flight and spend her time drinking in the atmosphere and preparing herself mentally for the experience. As it was they were rushed through the terminal so quickly she barely had time to take anything in. She had the vague impression of crowded waiting lounges and long queues at the check-in counters, huge electronic information boards and tannoy announcements and everywhere a bustling purpose and seething mass of people with places to go. They were ushered through the terminal with quiet efficiency accompanied by two baggage handlers and, to Sarah’s shock, two armed security guards. They sidestepped the big check-in counters with their long lines of patient travellers clutching their bags and trying to keep the c***dren from running astray and found themselves instead at a small reception in a quiet corner where a smiling girl in a smart uniform took their bags on a conveyer belt and issued them with their tickets and passes. They were the only customers at the counter and the whole process took seconds before they were whisked away once more through strange back corridors of the building, into a lift and finally into a spacious and luxurious departure lounge.
After the busy hustle of the more public areas this lounge was almost tranquilly quiet. A few gentlemen in business suits were sitting around in comfortable chairs looking through papers from their briefcases and a small group of Japanese businessmen were gathered around a laptop in one corner. Sarah felt as if she’d stepped into some bizarre fantasy. The lounge was surrounded by great glass windows and afforded a panoramic view over the tarmac of the airport aprons. Spread out across this vista were dozens of enormous jetliners in every hue and livery; Swissair, Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways, KLM and many more besides. It seemed incredible to Sarah that her fellow passengers could so ignore this extraordinary scene laid out before them. Sarah couldn’t tear her eyes away.
Their arrival in the departure lounge had not gone unnoticed for, as soon as they were ushered in, two remarkably beautiful young women in uniforms detached themselves from their stations of duty and intercepted them half way across the lounge. Their spokeswoman, an exquisitely lovely oriental girl, smiled in greeting. “Good day Miss Devin. We will be boarding in about one hour. May I offer you and your companion some refreshments in the meantime?”
“That’s very kind of you.” Daniela told her with a returning smile.
“Then if you would step this way ladies.”
The girl directed them to a table by the window. There was a bottle of champagne cooling in an ice bucket on the table. Sarah took a seat and regarded it with exasperation. “Champagne? At this time of the morning?”
Daniela laughed. “Why not? We’re on holiday!”
“God I must have soaked up more champagne in the last week than I have in the last five years!” Sarah grumbled. “Do you always serve champagne?” she asked their hostess.
The girl fought back a smile. “Only for very special clients Miss.” She explained as she began to unravel the foil on the bottle.
“Er I’m a regular customer with the company Sarah.” Daniela told her. “They like to pamper me!” Sarah suddenly felt a little gauche and unsophisticated so she held her peace as the girl poured the wine into two flutes. Daniela picked one up and raised it in salute. “Here’s to a safe journey and a happy landing Sarah.”
Sarah swallowed. “Now there’s a toast I can sympathise with!” They touched glasses and sipped at the chilled champagne before Sarah’s eyes were drawn once more to the view beyond the window. “Where are our bags anyway Danny?”
“Hopefully being loaded on the bl**dy plane!”
Sarah squinted through the glass. “Which one is our plane then?”
“I don’t think we can see it from here Sarah.”
“What are all these aeroplanes anyway?”
“Well that one over there is a Boeing 767, that Swissair jet on the far side is an Airbus 310, that Lufthansa plane is another Airbus, the 320 and that American Airlines one is a Mcdonnell Douglas MD-11...”
Christ I thought I was supposed to be the geek!”
“I’ve spent an awful lot of time hanging around in airport lounges Sarah! I once bought myself a book on aircraft recognition in an airport kiosk to while away the hours waiting for my plane and got interested in them despite myself.”
The hostess who was hovering in the background to see if there was anything else required interrupted apologetically. “Excuse me Miss but if you’re interested in aircraft then you might like to watch the plane just arriving. It’s just landed and I believe they’re parking it at the gate opposite. We don’t get many of them here and they always draw a crowd.” Interestedly they turned to watch. They didn’t have long to watch for a minute or so later an enormous great white machine turned the corner off the taxiway and trundled heavily into the space between the terminal buildings. To Sarah’s eyes the thing was colossal and seemed to fill the gap out onto the airfield beyond. There were small trucks scurrying about its feet like pilot fish and it dwarfed all the other aircraft on the apron.
“My God!” breathed Sarah. “What the hell is that?”
Daniela looked impressed. “It’s an Airbus 380 Sarah! It’s the largest passenger aircraft in the world. I’ve only ever seen a couple before.”
“How the hell can something that big fly?” asked Sarah desperately.
Daniela grinned. “With engines and wings Sarah sweetheart! Aerodynamics isn’t your strong suit is it?”
Sarah shook her head in wonder. Even the other occupants of the lounge seemed to have put aside their papers and laptops to watch the newcomer’s arrival. “God! It’s enormous! Please tell me that we’re not flying on that thing Daniela!”
Daniela laughed. “No I think our plane will be a bit smaller Sarah. That’s a Singapore Airlines 380. It’s probably just here for a fuel stop.”
“Just how big is our plane Danny? There don’t seem to be many passengers here waiting for it.”
Daniela grinned. “Oh I think we’ll have plenty of space. Come on have some more champagne.”
“Won’t I get airsick? You can get airsick can’t you?”
“I’m sure the flight will provide ample sicky bags darling!”
At this juncture a hostess walked over to address the party of Japanese businessmen. They all bowed politely and, putting away their laptops, rose to accompany the girl to a departure gate. Sarah jiggled Daniela’s arm nervously. “Oh look! Everybody’s leaving! Our plane must be ready to go.”
“No honey. They’re catching a different flight from ours.”
“How do you know?”
“Let’s just call it an inspired guess! Relax darling! They’ll let us know when it’s time for us to board.”
Sarah sat back and tapped on the tabletop nervously with her fingernails. “How can you be so calm about it?” she asked.
“I have done it before sweetheart.”
Sarah bit her lip. “God this is torment!”
Daniela was having a hard time to prevent herself from laughing out loud. “Oh God!” she breathed. “I’m glad I thought of this. You’re just a treasure! It’s so much fun travelling with you and we haven’t even got on the plane yet!”
Over the next half an hour, several more people from the departure lounge left, until Sarah and Daniela found themselves sharing the big lounge with only half a dozen remaining passengers. Sarah’s mystification grew by the minute. At last the hostess arrived back at their table to announce that they were ready for boarding. Sarah nearly jumped to her feet in agitation. The hostess led them calmly through the lounge and through a departure gate with a brief stop for a cursory examination of their passports. They then descended down a long sloping tunnel. Sarah had seen these tunnels before and assumed that they led straight to the cabin door of the aircraft but she was mistaken. Instead they emerged into daylight straight out onto the tarmac. The airport noises had been muffled and muted in the quiet calm of the departure lounge but out here in the open air Sarah was assailed by the sounds. Even as they stepped blinking into the sunshine there was a thunderous roar from the runways beyond and Sarah saw a large aircraft climbing away from the runway into the sky leaving a trail of smoky exhaust behind it. As its thunder receded, the whining of numerous turbofan jet engines ticking over on idle insinuated themselves into her hearing mingled with the alarm notes of airport maintenance vehicles rushing about in urgency. It was hot on the tarmac and the air shimmered around the heat generated by the aircraft engines. Sarah glanced behind her, wondering where the other passengers were but she and Daniela seemed to be alone following the stewardess. She gripped Daniela’s arm. “Where’s everyone else Danny?” she shouted above the din. “We seem to have lost them.”
Daniela fought with her laughter. “Oh Sarah! You’re just adorable!” They rounded a parked aircraft and in front of them, squatting on the tarmac, was another aeroplane. “Well this looks like ours darling.” She cried.
Sarah froze in horror. “You are pulling my pisser!”
“I didn’t think you had one honey; not an external one anyway! I’m sure I would have noticed!”
“We can’t possibly be flying on that!”
“What’s wrong with it? Looks fine to me!”
Sarah seemed to be hypnotised with shock. In front of them was what appeared to be by far and away the smallest aeroplane in the whole airport with its engines running and its navigation lights blinking. It was quite jaunty in its blue and white livery but it was quite odd looking for its two engines were mounted on pylons on top of the wings and there were large flanges on the tips of the wings and a T-shaped tail plane configuration. It was tiny with only three windows to a side along its cabin and it looked like a toy compared with the large airliners around it. “Where are the other passengers Danny?” cried an alarmed Sarah.
“We’re both here darling!”
“What? Just the two of us?”
“How many people do you think we’re going to get on that plane Sarah? It only takes a maximum of four passengers and the crew.”
“You mean we’ve got a whole plane to ourselves?”
“What did you expect us to do? Ride economy on Easy Jet or Ryanair or something? It’s a private chartered business jet honey. We’re not mingling with the riff-raff today. Now stop gawping and get aboard!”
The stewardess led them aboard by way of a small ladder and into a small cabin just a few feet wide in soft beige tones with two seats on either side facing each other. It was cool in the interior and the noise from the airfield was thankfully muted. It seemed as if the oriental girl from the lounge was not only their airport hostess but also their in flight stewardess as well for she boarded with them and closed and sealed the cabin door behind her. Beyond through a hatchway they could see the pilot making his last minute preparations for departure. The seats were surprisingly comfortable and Daniela settled down at once. She looked highly interested. “This is great! I’ve never flown on one of these before.”
Sarah took a seat on the other side of the narrow gangway. “You mean you haven’t flown on such a little plane as well before?”
“Oh no. I often take chartered business flights. How do you think I get to more distant gigs? I’ve certainly flown in small business jets before. I’ve never flown in this mark of aircraft before though. They’re brand new. I didn’t even think they were in service yet.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a HondaJet HA-420. They’re supposed to be a revolutionary new design of light business aircraft. Isn’t that right miss?” Daniela directed this last to the stewardess.
The stewardess smiled. “Yes Miss Devin. We’re very proud of our new additions to the fleet. The new HA-420 can carry five passengers and two crew members to a maximum range of one thousand four hundred nautical miles. We have a top cruising speed of 420 knots. That’s around 778 kilometres an hour and our service ceiling is around forty three thousand feet. The type achieves this performance because of the revolutionary anti-drag features in the aerodynamic design. It also means we have a 30 to 35 percent greater fuel efficiency compared with other comparable aircraft, with the lightweight composites used to construct the aircraft, the efficiency of the HF-120 engines and the aerodynamics all contributing to that. We also have a state of the art Garmin G3000 glass cockpit system with all instrument readouts on flat screen displays.”
Sarah gaped at her. “Do you have to learn all that?”
The stewardess smiled disarmingly. “Let’s just say I like to know what I’m flying on.”
Daniela grinned. “Don’t be dissing other people’s assimilation of useless facts Sarah! It’s no worse than you knowing the bl**dy Latin names of every flower in the Toggenburg!”
The stewardess shrugged with a smile. “I’ve been flying for ten years miss. I love aeroplanes and everything about them. You tend to pick up that sort of thing with the job.”
Sarah blushed. “I’m sorry miss. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“Please don’t concern yourself Miss. By the way my name’s Mae. It’s short for Mae-ying-thahan.”
Daniela furrowed her brow. “That’s Thai isn’t it? Do you come from Thailand?”
“Originally Miss but I have American citizenship now although I live most of the time in Switzerland. My name is Thai for a female warrior.”
Sarah smiled politely. “I’m pleased to meet you Mae. I think you have a lovely name. My name’s Sarah by the way.”
The girl smiled radiantly at her. “I know Miss Fuchs. I know your name from our passenger manifest of course. Now ladies excuse me but we’ll be departing in a few minutes so may I ask you to fasten your seat belts?”
Sarah became instantly flustered. “Oh I don’t think I know how these things work.”
Mae grinned at her. “Please let me help you.” She leaned across Sarah to reach the seat belt and quickly fastened it about Sarah’s waist. For several seconds Sarah was terribly conscious of the warm proximity of the beautiful Thai girl inches from her face. Her perfume was subtle but pleasant and Sarah stared at the smoothness of her skin in fascination. She seemed satisfied with the buckle on Sarah’s seatbelt and raised slightly to look Sarah in the face. “There you go Miss. All snug now.”
“Thank you Mae. You’re very kind.”
“It’s my pleasure Miss. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you. Now if you ladies will excuse me for one moment I’ll just have a word with our pilot before we depart.”
As she left to go forward to the cockpit Daniela leaned across to wag a finger in Sarah’s face. “You can pop those eyeballs straight back in your head Miss Fuchs!” She whispered fiercely.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I’ve got enough to worry about with all the other pieces of fluff you’ve already got on your phone list without you starting to flirt with the stewardesses!”
“I wasn’t flirting!”
“Bullshit! I saw you fluttering your eyelashes at our little Miss female warrior!”
“She’s probably straight Danny.”
“Oh yes? She was giving you a hell of a come on for somebody not interested in girls Sarah. If she’d got any closer while fastening your seatbelt she’d have been sitting on your lap!”
“You mean she’s...”
“I’d be prepared to bet money on it!” Daniela giggled and leaned forward to whisper. “Mind you if you want to earn your ten mile high badge we could always ask the pilot to close the cabin door for an hour or so and invite Miss Mae-yin-thahan for a high altitude threesome at 43,000 feet!”
“You’re a bl**dy disgrace Daniela Devin!”
Daniela laughed as Mae reappeared. “We’re about to depart ladies. May I run through the emergency procedures with you?” Sarah didn’t enjoy this part of the proceedings as Mae pointed out the emergency hatch, the position of the life rafts and the correct usage of them and the location and usage of the emergency oxygen supply in case of cabin decompression. Sarah was certain she wouldn’t remember a damn thing if there really was an emergency. As Mae ran through the procedures the aircraft lurched and began to move along the ground. Sarah glanced out of the window and saw the tarmac moving beneath the wingtips. It was bumpier than she had imagined and she was alarmed to see that the wings seemed to be waggling up and down in a most disturbing fashion. As Mae took her own seat facing forward at the front of the cabin Sarah patted Daniela on the knee. “Is that normal Danny?” she muttered anxiously, pointing out of the porthole. “Are the wings supposed to bounce up and down like that?”
“Of course it’s normal honey. You have to have some flexibility in the wings. If they were too stiff they’d break off under the stress of flight.”
“Oh thanks Danny! Now you’ll have me staring out of the window the whole way convinced that the wings are about to break off!”
“Strictly speaking it’s a porthole Sarah. Aircraft use nautical terminology on board so the front of the plane is forrard and the back is aft. You’re sitting on the port side of the plane and my side is starboard.”
“Are the windows on your side called starboard holes then?”
“I’ll have to tell Mae you said that. We might get our flight free for you being the one millionth paying passenger to have cracked that joke.”
“How much are we paying anyway? This must cost a fortune!”
“Not as much as you might think. We’re paying a tad over three thousand francs for this plane today. I’ve spent more than that on a dress before today!”
Sarah blinked in surprise. It was a lot of money but nothing like as much as she’d expected. “Really? I thought it would be more. Actually when I first saw it I thought it must be your own private plane or something.”
Daniela shook her head regretfully. “I’m afraid not. I mean I’d love to have one of these but rich as I am I couldn’t justify the expense of this machine. These things cost over three and a half million new! If we want to have our own private jet one day I’m sure there are more economical alternatives; a used Learjet or something. Then again it would be better to have something a bit bigger for practical purposes; something big enough to carry the whole band.”
Sarah took a breath. “God I can’t even imagine owning my own jet aeroplane! I don’t even have a bicycle anymore!” She gazed out of the window; she begged its pardon, the porthole. They were passing the huge Airbus 380 on the apron. It towered over them. They could have almost slipped underneath it without being noticed Sarah thought. Then the aircraft was free of the terminal buildings and taxiing out onto the open airfield. At this juncture the pilot addressed them on the internal PA system.
“Good morning Miss Devin and Miss Fuchs. Welcome aboard and thank you for flying with us today. We have clearance from air traffic control and so we should be able to depart on schedule. Our scheduled flight time is about one hour and twenty minutes and we should be arriving in Hamburg around twelve thirty. Our in flight hostess will be serving a light luncheon as soon as we reach our cruising altitude. On behalf of the crew we wish you a pleasant flight. Thank you.”
Sarah looked at Daniela in surprise. “Hamburg? We’re going to Hamburg?”
“No darling that’s just where we’re catching our connecting flight.”
“So we have to catch another plane? Why can’t we go all the way on this one?”
“Er it’s complicated sweetheart. You’ll see.”
After a short pause at the beginning of the taxiing track the aircraft was moving again and it was evident that they were moving around the airfield perimeter towards the main runway. Sarah gripped the armrest of her seat and felt her heart beating rapidly. She was becoming disoriented as to their position and wished she could see forward from the cockpit. Then the aircraft swung out onto a broad expanse of tarmac. This Sarah realised was the runway and they were moments from take off. There was a short pause and Sarah felt the aircraft shake as the engines built up power and then they were moving once more. Her mouth dry, Sarah watched the tarmac racing ever more quickly below them and the whole plane rattled as the wheels sped along the uneven surface. Then suddenly the rattling stopped and Sarah felt herself pushed back in her seat with the acceleration as the pilot applied the throttle. The ground fell away from them and in a remarkably short period of time the whole airport was laid out below them and then the suburbs of Kloten and finally the city of Zurich was spread out in panoramic display as the aircraft banked to port and climbed into the sky.
Sarah’s nose was glued to the Perspex of the porthole and she watched in astonishment as the towns and villages dwindled to toy like proportions in the landscape below her. Her fears forgotten, she felt a rush of exhilaration quite unlike anything she had known before. She was flying! It felt like the most wondrous thing in the world to her; a miracle almost unimaginable. She had never known anything so exciting. Then suddenly the extraordinary view was blotted out by whiteness. “We’ve flown into a cloud Danny!” she exclaimed.
Daniela was watching her with pleasure. “That does tend to happen quite often Sarah. Aircraft usually have to fly through the cloud base to reach their cruising altitude.”
“How can the pilot see where he’s going?”
“I think we have radar for this sort of eventuality Sarah darling. Don’t worry. We’ll soon break out of the top of the clouds.”
Daniela was right for after a short passage through the cloud they broke free into the upper sky and Sarah caught her breath. A radiant sunshine was gleaming down on a cloudscape stretching away into the distance; great ranks of clouds silvery white beneath a deep blue sky above. In the distance to the south she could see the mountains peaking above the clouds and glinting in the morning sunshine. It was indescribably beautiful and she felt her emotions choke in her throat. It was better than she had ever expected; a spectacle which she knew would live with her the rest of her days. In that wonderful moment she was hooked on flying for life. To crown the magnificence of it she looked below and saw the shadow of the aircraft on the cloud below and it was surrounded by a circular halo of rainbow. It was a remarkable phenomenon and she excitedly pointed it out to Daniela who had to lean far across the narrow aisle to see it. “It’s a glory Sarah.” Daniela told her. “You see it quite often when flying on the opposite side of the plane from the sun.”
“I’ve seen something like it before from a mountain top Danny.”
“Yes I think there’s a name for it in that instance. The Brocken spectre! That’s it. It’s named after a mountain in the Harz where you can often see it surrounding your own shadow cast on the cloud below.”
Daniela smiled enigmatically. “It’s even more wonderful through your eyes Sarah.”
And still the aircraft climbed; climbed so high in fact that soon the undulations of the clouds below became flattened by perspective and the sky above deepened in colour to a deep azure. Sarah felt overwhelmed. They were sitting in a tiny box surrounded by the sheer vastness of the sky. She knew that beyond the thin few inches of the Perspex there was a completely hostile environment where the air was so tenuous that she would not be able to survive in it for more than a few seconds. It seemed a miracle to be alive in this alien world, sitting comfortably and warm separated from the rarefied, frigid void beyond by only the fragile thin skin of the aeroplane’s hull; a couple of centimetres of material between luxurious life and certain death. How lucky she felt to live in an age where this incredible journey into this extraordinary other dimension was possible and even routine.
Their soaring ascent finally levelled out and, at the sounding of a discreet tone in the passenger cabin, Mae unbuckled herself from her seat and turned to her two charges with the captivating smile that seemed to be permanently built into her facial features. “I’ll be serving lunch in a few minutes ladies. We have a full onboard lavatory in case you ladies wish to make use of it.”
Daniela turned to Sarah. “How about it honey? If you need to use the loo I’d do it now because I don’t know if we’ll have time in Hamburg and our connecting flight won’t have toilets on it. Anyway it’s an opportunity not to be missed. How many chances do you get in life to piss all over Germany?”
“I’m fine thanks!”
“I’ll see to lunch.” Mae told them.
Mae brought them lunch on lightweight trays. It was the oddest meal in Sarah’s life. She had no idea that, although a cold meal, it contrasted well with the normal standards of airline food for the private charter company with which they were flying prided itself on its gourmet in-flight catering. Sarah was hardly in a position to do it justice though. She was so distracted by the view from her window that Mae could have put a bowl of gruel in front of her for all she would have noticed. She had the vague impression of some delectable Parma ham wedded with slices of ice cold honey melon, slivers of smoked salmon topped with shallots, capers and spoonfuls of caviar on brown bread and a delicious Salad Nicoise with tuna, anchovies, hard boiled eggs and tomatoes on a bed of iceberg lettuce. Mae served a light fruity white wine to accompany the meal. Mae leaned across Sarah to pour her wine. “Is this really your first flight in an aeroplane then Miss?” she asked.
“Yes. Yes it is. This is all new to me. I suppose you’ve seen it thousands of times in your job though.”
“Yes I have. I never get tired of it though. I love flying.”
“I wish I had your job Mae. It must be a wonderful life.”
“Well it can be harder work than you think but yes I love it. Perhaps you ought to try for an air stewardess job yourself Miss. You’ve got all the qualifications. You’re friendly, charming and very, very pretty. You’d be a shoo in!”
“Thank you Mae. It’s sweet of you to say so.”
“Not at all Miss. Just stating the obvious! I’ll put the wine back in the fridge to keep chilled.”
Sarah watched her walk forward easily. Mae’s shapely legs were just about the only thing that could drag her attention away from the window view. At this point a sealed portion of butter hit her on the end of her nose. Daniela was glaring at her. “Oh sorry honey! We must have hit a spot of turbulence!” she told Sarah sourly. Sarah dissolved into giggles.
All too soon the pilot announced that they were beginning their descent into Hamburg. Until then Sarah had had virtually no notion of movement other than a few bumps and vibrations. Certainly she had no feeling that she was travelling faster than she had ever done in her life. The plane just seemed to be hanging in the blue void and the only indication of forward movement had been the occasional wisps of cirrus cloud drifting past. Now however the engine noises seemed to change and the aircraft vibrated more as it began to descend into thicker air below. Two or three times the pilot manoeuvred, banking the plane in descending curves. The ground which had been only a vague impression from twelve miles up began to show more detail as she glimpsed it through the breaks in the cloud. Occasionally the aircraft shuddered alarmingly and Sarah glanced anxiously at Daniela and Mae to reassure herself that they were not finding the experience to be anything to worry about. Soon they were close to the cloud tops and the pilot, with the maddeningly matter of fact voice endemic to all airline pilots, was informing them that they were on schedule, due to land in a few minutes and that the weather was fine in Hamburg.
Sarah swallowed. She knew that statistically landing was the most dangerous moment of any aircraft flight. She turned to Daniela to speak for the sake of it. “What’s Hamburg like Danny.”
“Oh it’s a big bad city Sarah. I love the place but it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. We won’t be seeing any of it on this trip though. That’s probably no bad thing. I don’t think an innocent little country girl like you is quite ready for the wicked decadence of a place like Hamburg!”
“You make me sound like a hick from the sticks! I have been in cities before you know.”
“With all due respect Sarah, Zurich and Bern aren’t exactly in Hamburg’s league!”
Sarah turned back to the view from the aircraft. They were noticeably closer to the ground now and the clouds had cleared sufficiently to afford a fine view over the North German countryside. Sarah saw the great sprawling mass of Hamburg abaft the River Elbe as the aircraft began its approach to the airport. Sarah felt the bump as the pilot lowered the landing gear and she saw the flaps on the wing lowering to increase their drag. Soon they seemed to be apparently landing in the middle of the city for they were skimming so low above the suburbs that Sarah could pick out traffic on the streets and even pedestrians. They passed low over a major highway and a band of woodland by now so low that Sarah began to feel beads of perspiration on her forehead from anxiety. They were nearly on the ground but there was no sign of an airport. There was a patch of open land beneath them and Sarah saw two young girls with bicycles lounging against a fence. Incredibly the two girls were waving to them as they skimmed low above. Then they passed the perimeter fence of the airport and a second later the pilot was easing the aeroplane onto the runway. The aircraft jolted as the wheels touched the tarmac and the engine noise changed dramatically as the pilot braked their momentum. Then they were bumping along the runway and slowing. Sarah gulped in a gasp of air. She had been holding her breath. It suddenly felt marvellous to be on the ground once more.
Mae detached herself from her seat and thanked them for flying with the company as they taxied toward the terminal buildings. The pilot was on the PA system thanking them also. “You won’t have any delays with your connection.” He assured them, “I’ve been advised that your connecting flight is ready and cleared for immediate departure once we disembark and transfer your luggage.”
Daniela nodded in approval. “That’s what I call service Sarah. Looks like we’ll be down and straight back up again.”
Sarah felt giddy with the elation of being safely on the ground and she was a little disappointed to learn that they were taking off again almost immediately. Much though she had felt exhilarated with the experience of flight she had wanted to savour the comforting sense of terra firma for a while longer. “Do we have much further to fly Danny?” she asked.
“No honey. Only another hundred and twenty kilometres there or thereabouts.”
Sarah was puzzled. She had calculated that the distance between Zurich and Hamburg was about seven hundred kilometres. Mae had told them that the maximum range of the aircraft was one thousand four hundred nautical miles which was something over two thousand five hundred kilometres. So, since they had easily the range to cover an extra one hundred and twenty kilometres, why the devil did they have to change to another aeroplane? Why couldn’t they have flown directly to their final destination? “Why do we have to change if it’s only another hundred and twenty klicks Danny?” she asked.
“Er technical reasons Sarah. The airfield where we’re going’s not big enough to take jets.”
“Where the hell is it you’re taking me?”
“Somewhere small Sarah!”
“Are we taking a propeller driven aeroplane then?”
“No actually! We’re taking a helicopter.”
“You’re k**ding me!”
“Not at all. Oh we could have taken a light prop plane but that would have meant booking with another charter company. As it is this company charters private helicopters as well so we could have an instant connection without waiting at Hamburg.”
“Oh God! A bl**dy helicopter! I’m certainly getting a thorough initiation into the mysteries of aeronautics today!”
Daniela laughed. “We’ll turn you into a budding little Amy Johnson in no time!”
The aircraft slowed onto a parking apron and finally halted. Mae unsealed the cabin door and, to Sarah’s surprise the pilot himself came to the door to shake their hands, thank them once more for flying with him and wish them a safe journey. Mae graced them both with a radiant smile as she took their hands and bid them farewell. Sarah thought that she held her hand just a little longer than convention required and she gave her such a lingering look of appraisal that Sarah felt quite flustered as she disembarked onto the tarmac. They were given the VIP treatment as soon as they touched the ground for there was a small minibus and two porters awaiting them as they alighted from their aircraft. Their luggage was off loaded in seconds and they were whisked away with admirable efficiency to a corner of the airport serving as a heliport. Their helicopter was indeed waiting for them. It was a modern looking machine and comfortingly new in appearance with its blue and white livery. Daniela told her that it was an American built aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas MD 902 Explorer.
Curiously Sarah felt more at home with the idea of a flight in a helicopter then she had in a jet. Helicopters were familiar machines in the Toggenburg where they were used to service the mountain huts or for mountain rescue services and in use by the forestry management. She had been close to helicopters before and their low operating height was more in keeping with her altitudinal experience from the mountains. She doubted if the helicopters in the Toggenburg had quite such a luxurious interior as this machine however. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect but the passenger cabin with its big comfortable seats, plush carpet, drinks cabinet and even a television set was not what she had anticipated. Best of all from Sarah’s point of view was the huge window on the side away from the door where Sarah took her seat. The view would be magnificent.
Daniela seemed fascinated by the helicopter. Sarah had never seen this side of her girlfriend before. She genuinely loved aeroplanes of all descriptions and knew enough about them to threaten to be boring on the subject. She was telling Sarah that the machine was an innovative design for it didn’t have a conventional tail rotor. Sarah was a bit hazy on the technicalities of helicopter flight but even she was aware that most helicopters had a large rotor to lift it off the ground and fly with and a smaller stabilising rotor on the tail without which the aircraft would simply spin around its own axis. From Daniela’s description however it seemed that this aircraft dispensed with the tail rotor by the expediency of venting its exhaust out through the tail and using the thrust of that to combat the torque effect of its main rotor. It was all a bit black magic to Sarah but she was reassured to learn that the system not only enhanced performance and reduced noise but was also safer than conventional designs.
No sooner had their bags been stowed away aboard their new aircraft than the pilot powered up his engines and lifted the machine clear of the tarmac. Sarah learned one new thing almost immediately. Flying in helicopters was a far noisier experience than in jet planes! But the flight was wonderful. The sun was out in glory over North Germany and they flew low enough to provide extraordinary views over the landscape passing beneath. The whole of the city of Hamburg was laid out in panorama below them; a vast urban conglomeration and the biggest city Sarah had ever seen. It seemed enormous. Sarah could not imagine living in such a place. It would take hours to get out of town!
Unless of course you had a helicopter at your disposal! The aircraft soon left the outlying suburbs behind and then they were out in open country. It seemed as if the pilot was intent on following the scenic route for the helicopter was tracing along the course of the River Elbe as it wound its way through the billiard table flat landscape of the North German plain. Sarah’s geography was becoming somewhat scrambled by the whirlwind course of events of the day for she didn’t at first appreciate the consequences of following the river. She didn’t even make the connection when she looked down and saw great ships winding their way up the river. She knew that Hamburg was one of Europe’s largest ports but it lay far inland. Then sometime into the flight the reality struck with the most awesome experience of the day so far. The land suddenly fell away at a sharp edge of sandy shoreline fringed with white waves and away to the horizon stretched a vast expanse of blue water.
Sarah gazed in awe at the spectacle. “Oh my God!” she breathed. “The sea!”
Daniela reached over to take her hand, her eyes shining as she watched Sarah’s dumbstruck astonishment. She had been waiting in exited anticipation for this moment and Sarah’s reaction.“That’s the sea alright Sarah honey; lots and lots and lots of salt water! That stuff covers three fifths of the planet’s surface! I couldn’t believe it when you told me that day at Bollenwees that you’d never seen the sea. I wanted then to be the first person to show you the sea.”
Sarah felt tears pricking at her eyelids. “It’s so... so beautiful!”
“It sure is honey and you’re going to see a lot more of it over the next few days!”
Sarah shook her head and tried to put her brain into gear. “But where the hell are we heading Danny? You said we only had a hundred and twenty kilometres to fly. I know my geography of this part of the world is a bit vague but as far as I can recall there’s nothing between the North German coast and England and England’s surely a hell of a lot further than that!”
“Ah that’s the best surprise of all! Wait and see!”
Sarah looked down and saw a large red and white container ship leaving a white trail in the blue ocean surface. Surely they weren’t going to land on a ship! But the helicopter flew on and soon the land behind had vanished over the horizon. Sarah’s puzzlement grew. Daniela was eagerly peering forward and finally she gripped Sarah’s hand in excitement. “Look out this side Sarah. You can see our destination.”
Sarah squeezed over Daniela and looked. On the horizon there was a sliver of land rising from the sea. As they approached it resolved itself into a pair of islands. On the left was a larger island that rose up in red sandstone cliffs and was dominated by a huge wind turbine. Slightly to the east, separated by a narrow straight was a smaller much lower lying island that seemed to be mainly sand. The pilot flew a circuit of the islands to afford his passengers a view and Sarah gasped in wonderment. The larger of the two islands had a large village on its sheltered side and an extensive harbour. To Sarah’s surprise half a dozen large white passenger ships were anchored offshore in the lee of the island and the place seemed to be full of people. The cliffs of this island were quite remarkable for they were a deep brick red and even from their height above Sarah could see that they were full of seabirds. The top of the island was a verdant green apparently flat plateau and Sarah could make out parties of people walking about the edge of the cliffs.
But the pilot made no attempt to lower his aircraft onto this island. Instead he banked over and crossed the narrow strait to the smaller of the two islands. Even from the air this island looked barren; just scrubby sand dunes of hardy grasses and thorny bushes. In shock Sarah looked down and saw the runway of a tiny airfield laid out among the dunes as the pilot descended. They had, it seemed, arrived. They alighted on the ground with the downdraft of the aircraft’s rotors blowing loose sand away in a wicked flurry and a group of men were darting out from some low building toward them. The helicopter co-pilot opened the door for them and assisted them out where, stooping beneath the spinning rotors and their hair lashing about their faces, they were ushered quickly away from the helicopter. Two men were already manhandling their luggage from the aircraft. One man, clutching his cap to his head, addressed them im some importance. “Guten tag meine Frauen. Wilkommen auf Helgoland.”
posted with love