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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

A Boy’s Trip to the Airport, and Beyond

October 21, 2011

Air travel remains a challenge these days.

The experience is not a good one. There’s a maze of security, it’s overcrowded, confusing, demeaning, and most people can’t wait to get out of there.

A far cry from the way it once was.

I still remember the most memorable flying experience I ever had; my first one, as a boy, on a family vacation from Columbus, Ohio to Miami Beach, Florida.

My eyes still get big thinking about it. My dad wanted to get to the airport early, and this was many years before it was mandatory or advisable to do so. I remember being so excited that I badgered him all day and into the night as to when we were leaving for the airport. He finally gave up, and simply said, okay, “Let’s go.”

The flight departed at 12:30 a.m., and we were taking a cab to the airport. This departure was a twofer for a young boy at the age 10. Not only was it my first airplane flight but it would also be the first time I rode in a cab.

Our vacation was the talk of the neighborhood because we were going by plane. Families didn’t fly; they packed up the Chevy or Ford, and headed onto the highway for vacation.

The cab arrived and we piled in for the 15 minute trip to the airport. Along the way, the dispatcher sounded familiar, and sure enough, it was the voice of our next-door neighbor, who was working the night shift that evening.

We got to the airport hours before boarding but that didn’t seem so bad either.

Finally, it was time to board. We were flying Trans World Airlines (TWA), one of the largest domestic airlines at the time. The plane was a Lockheed Constellation, known by its four engines and unique triple-tail design. It was a huge plane, loud, and boarding was an adventure in itself.

We went out onto the tarmac where the plane was parked, and walked up the long staircase, boarding near the rear of the plane. It was spacious inside, the stewardesses were nice, and meals would be served with real silverware.

I was now exhausted, and after the meal, I slept for most of the flight.

Waking up at first-light as we approached Miami International Airport for landing; I still remember the sight, one that was astonishing to this little boy. Out the passenger window, there were miniature houses, cars, people, and palm trees below, and it was a wonder to me that I could look down on the world.

This is the flying experience many generations remember, a kind of romance that is associated with flying, one that still permeates in our mind.

I am writing this article somewhere over the southwest, crammed into the middle aisle of a United Airbus flight that has been anything but enjoyable. I can’t wait to get off, let alone do I care, what is below me on this flight.

Still, there was once a time, and a little boy, who experienced a flight that he will never forget.

And he has not.