Friday, April 3, 2015

My Trip to Dominica: The Flight In

I decided to go to Dominica on a whim.

It had been on my list of places to go since a good friend of mine had relocated there and had given me an open invitation to come up to visit her. It all came together very quickly due to a combination of another vacation plan falling through and finding a cheap ticket on LIAT.

The real challenge for me was that I hate flying. Yes, I am an ATC but I am actually frightened of flying - especially the phases of take off and landing. I was pretty happy and excited about my trip, up until the day in question when I started to think about the fact that I was about to get on a plane.

I felt something like this...
As time ticked on, my panic ratcheted up higher and higher. I usually try to joke away my fears and so I sat down and penned a will. It was written in a hilarious fashion, and although it was still a bit morbid, it kept my panic at bay on the drive to the airport, checking in and heading through to immigration.

This level mood prevailed until I was through the security check and realised that I had forgotten to write down my friend's address in my journal so that I could fill it out on the immigration form for entry into Dominica. Worse yet, I couldn't access the internet to pull it up in my email.

Yea... I feel yuh kid.
Thankfully, my friend L came to see me off and I was able to use her phone to access the information. I was doubly glad to see her because having her to talk to really calmed my inner panic.

She left me after a while and I sat in the departure lounge trying to eat my snack. All was going well when I heard the TV in the lounge area broadcasting breaking news about a plane that had run off a runway in the US.

I whipped out my earbuds at the speed of lightning while simultaneously wondering whose bright idea it was to share information about an aircraft accident to people that were waiting to board a freaking plane!

Despite my best efforts, my panic was back, and even the strains of my favourite music seemed to be doing little to calm me down.

Luckily I didn't have long to sit in my state of barely contained mania for too long; my flight number was called just as I finished eating.

I was next caught up in the flurry of getting my ticket stub torn off and hustling out to the plane. As I walked out on the ramp and past the control tower where I usually worked, I was struck by how easily I dismissed the wonder and beauty that was air travel as I lost myself in the day to day grind of my job.

In the here and now I was feeling like an ant about to go on a great adventure by hitching a ride on a giant bird.

I stowed away my carry-on and took my seat, staring at the window at the engine that was right across from me. A vivid image of the propeller spinning off and flying at me came readily to my mind but I shoved it aside and called my friend in Dominica to let her know that amazingly, instead of Leaving Island Any-time Time, LIAT was leaving on time today. 

Then I watched the flight attendant demonstrate all of the motions of how to save yourself in the unlikely event that the plane crashed and you didn't die on impact. I fidgeted in my seat and tried not to let my mind dream up all the scenarios in which the information that was being broadcast would be useful to me. 

When we finally started to taxi, I amused myself by miming what the pilot had probably been told by my colleague in the tower:

"LIA364 taxi to holding point taxiway bravo via taxi alpha, time 43."

I was breathing deep and calming breaths as we made our way down the taxiway.

As we turned into Bravo, I saw another LIAT airborne just before us and my heart started to race. When it turned I knew that we would be given take off, so I was bracing myself even before the pilots told the cabin crew to prepare for departure.

In my head I heard:

 "LIA364  Runway Zero Niner Cleared for Take Off,  Winds 090 Degrees One Two Knots."

Now I was thinking with an ever increasing heart rate:

"This Sh_t is really happening... we're going...oh God we're... going..."

And we did. And it was flawless. The instant we were airborne, as always happens, my panic was replaced with awe and exhilaration. I watched Barbados spill out before me from a bird's eye view, and then marvelled at the clouds that we were suddenly touching. Palaces in the sky...

Now that the scary part was over, I was happily journalling, knitting and watching the clouds. I was so engrossed in my activities that when I noticed we were descending, I was actually shocked that we had gotten to our destination so quickly. It dawned on me then that it took longer to drive from Bridgetown to St. Lucy than it did to fly from Barbados to Dominica.

I was lost again in the amazing wonder that was modern air travel until we began a series of sharp turns and noticeable manoeuvres as we prepared to land.

The fear though was counterbalanced and then eclipsed when Dominica came into view. Mile upon miles of lush green rain forest, covering hill and mountains. I was so enthralled with how different it looked than Barbados, that my fear took a back seat. 

We landed with the slightest of impacts and rolled into the gate a few moments after.

I had a simple and hassle free time with immigration and since I didn't have any checked luggage I was soon stepping out of the arrivals hall and into the arms of my friend. My trip to Dominica had begun!