Like almost everyone else I know, I am used to riding in an automobile. But I have ridden on an airplance only a few times in my life. Not long ago I rode on a big jet from California to New York for the first time.
These are some of the questions I had as I started my trip on the airplane. Perhaps you might wonder about these things, too.
1. How will I get on the right airplane?
My ticket, which had been bought from a travel agent and which was in a paper folder, told me which airplane I would fly on. At the airport, I went to the terminal, or building, of the airline. The folder had a paper in it telling me the date and time of the flight and the flight number.
At the airline counter I checked my baggage. It was taken away to be put in the baggage compartment of the airplane. I had to keep with me anything I wanted to use on the airplane.
Next, I was asked if I wanted to sit in a nonsmoking or smoking section. I was given a seat number and a boarding pass. I was told which gate my plane would be parked at. Next, I had to pass through a security checkpoint to show that I had no dangerous weapons on me or in my purse.
We waited at the gate and were told when we could go onto the airplane. The flight attendant checked our boarding passes as we entered.
2. How do I find my seat?
The airplane was divided into sections or rooms. The stewardess who greeted me as I entered the airplane told me where to look for my seat. I was to sit in Section 3, Row 23, Seat 6. As I walked down one aisle in the airplane, I saw the row numbers posted above the windows. When I got to Row 23, I found the row and seat number on the arm of the seat.
3. What will I find near my seat for my use?
On the back of the seat in front of me was a pocket in which I found a card of safety instructions and a magazine about the airline. A folding shelf on the back of the seat in front of me could be pulled down for my use in writing or for my food tray when eating. In storage bins, there were pillows and blankets.
4. What happens when we take off?
We were asked to sit down, fasten our seat belt, and keep it fastened until a lighted sign above told us we could take it off. The pilot or captain spoke to us over a speaker and told us where we are going and the weather conditions ahead. He told us the area we would fly over. Then the stewardess in our section gave us more safety instructions and showed us some of the emergency equipment.
The motor of the airplane was started, and we backed away from the terminal. We taxied a little way, turned, and stopped. The captain said that we must get in line and wait for our turn to take off. After waiting about 30 minutes of moving slowly, we at last began to taxi for the takeoff. Faster and faster we went, our airplane nose tilted upward, and soon we lost sight of buildings and the ground out of the windows. We were flying! We could fly through some clouds and come out in sunshine above the clouds.
5. What is flying like?
While taking off I felt strong feeling of power pulling us forward. Later in the air there was a more gentle movement, as if I were on a boat on the water. I could hear the steady gentle hum of the engines. The temperature was controlled, so that we did not need our coats.
On the arm of my seat were buttons and a dial for me to use if I wished to lie back in my seat of if I wished to plug in some earphones and listen to music. Earphones are offered only on big planes and on long flights. On some airplanes, we are told, you can dial a certain channel and hear the captain talk to the air control towers as we approach the airport. Also, I could turn on a ceiling light over my seat if I needed it.
6. Do we get to eat?
On long flights food is served. When I boarded the plane, the stewardess gave me a printed menu. On this flight I was offered orange juice or tomato juice soon after takeoff. Later a food attendant came down each aisle with a food cart serving a big warm breakfast, even though it was after 10 o'clock.
If we wanted to skip the breakfast we could wait for lunch about 1 p.m. However, for lunch we had to walk to the kitchen, pick up a tray full of snacks or sandwiches, something to drink, and carry it back to our seats ourselves. Because the narrow aisles were filled with people this was a little hard to do.
7. Can we see anything out of the window?
Sometimes, if there are no clouds, the captain will speak over the intercom and tell us that we are passing over the Grand Canyon or the Mississippi River. If you don't sit near a window, which is very small, you must stand up or walk out into the aisle to see. If you want to see out, it is best to ask for a window seat when checking in at the airport.
After we were safely in the air, the sign for seat belts went off, and we could unbuckle and walk to the restroom in the back or go to get a drink. However, most the time we stayed at our seat.
8. How do you keep track of time?
At takeoff we were told when we should arrive at New York City. The time would be three hours later than at Los Angeles because New York is in a different "time zone." We could change our watches at takeoff or wait until we landed. About 45 minutes before landing the captain told us we were 60 miles from Kennedy Airport. He reminded us about the time in New York and told us about the weather to expect. We would know whether or not to put on our coats. He told us that we must enter a holding pattern over the airport, circle around, and wait for our turn and instructions to land.
9. What is it like to land?
We were told to fasten our seat belts before landing. The airplane had been slowing down and coming closer to the ground, and the wheels under the plane came down. On landing there was a slight bump when we touched the runway, and we had to roll ahead a long ways very fast before we had slowed enough to turn and taxi to the termina. We had to stay in our seats until we stopped. Then we picked up our belongings and walked off the airplane. Flying was fun!