Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Moon on My Yo-yo String

The Moon was so stunning even the hotel van driver remarked about it on the drive to the airport. Yes, it was a fine night for it, I reckoned. A fine night for a red-eye trans-con.

Indeed it was, and as we pushed back I caught a glimpse of that orange glowing quarter-moon sinking into the Pacific, it
s sharp horn following the rest of it down like a foundering ship. When we swung our nose around on runway 24R at LAX and pushed the two big Pratts up to takeoff thrust, the Moon had fled over the horizon toward Hawaii. But not for long.

Even at over 320,000 pounds the 767 soared effortlessly out over the dark Pacific like a zooming projectile, and suddenly the Moon rose again--rose where it wasn’t supposed to rise, only where it’s suppose to set. Brilliant and orange, the pointy prow reared from the horizon. Then the rest of the arch he
aved up, its glow shimmering in the water. And as it stood, hovering there while we began our big sweeping 180 degree turn back toward the east, it seemed to be saying, “Okay, you’ve had your fun with me, now let me go.”

And we did.

We pilots have the powers to make the Moon and Sun rise and set at our whim. We defy gravity daily. We heft hundreds of souls into the stratosphere and haul them across oceans and continents. It's good that aviation issues us a ration of humility from time to time, lest we start regarding ourselves as god-like creatures.

My first officer, Jose, feels far from god-like tonight. H
e’s praying God takes care of him and his family. He’s being furloughed next month, for the second time in five years. He doesn’t expect to be called back again. He thinks maybe there won’t be anything to come back to.

The financial pundits are predicting we will succumb again to bankruptcy this winter. They doubt there will be financing available to push us through. Liquidation, they say, is the only way. Besides, they add, there are too many airlines. At least one, they say, needs to fall on its sword so the rest can have a be
tter go of it. I’d like to take a sword of my own to some of those contemptible key board peckers who neither risk anything nor produce anything, for their worthless scribblings.

We’ve seen it all and heard it all before. And we survived. I think we survive because we have such damn fine people working their hearts
out to make it happen. People like Jose. Such a loss.

If only I could use some of this power at my fingertips that fetches celestial bodies at will, maybe I could make some sense of this crazy industry that I both love and abhor with equal passion.

Here's a poem I remember from long ago. I saw it in an issue of the USAF's TAC Attack, a magazine for fighter pilots. I'm sorry that I can't remember the author's name.

go on


clouds and race

the moon through

starlit skies, unfettered

free to roam, beyond night’s

faint horizon. Higher, higher, higher

above the flickering firefly lights, high

above the din and cacophony,

I tred along untrodden paths

chasing moonbeams

like a child on a

summer’s evening,

Oh God, but

I didn't mean for this to be blurred,
but I like the way it came out.
What plane is that?