Alexandra's Notebook

Fly like a Bird

Well, maybe not like a bird, I don’t have wings but, during my time in the military, despite suffering with air sickness my entire life, I made a point of flying on every available aircraft I could. Even if that meant throwing up for take off and landings. Even if that meant a 12 hour flight over the north sea in an antiquated Shackleton that vibrated like an old rust bucket. Hell yeah, I was there clutching not my string of pearls but a collection of sick-bags.

I didn’t miss one flight, or one plane. I got to fly from mere minutes to hours, and, at one point, held a record for the most flights as an observer. I even received a coveted phantom squadron badge from my bestie, Group Captain Harding, weeks before he—and the 4 flights of phantom jets—left Bruggen for the UK.

It was and will always be one of the highlights of my career in Germany. And a privilege extended to me and two others who had worked closely with and for the Group Captain. He took each of us up and around the base for a couple of circuits and then, landed. After which, at a presentation for the departing flights, the three of us were presented with our squadron patches.

Yes, I still have it. It’s in my treasure box.

What was the flight like I hear you ask? Terrifying.

Of course I had to go through a week of training—and isn’t there always training?—before I could go up. I had to go through suiting up procedure and be fitted, learn about the process of ejection, should the unthinkable happen, and be certified by not just a stuffy sergeant, but by the Safety Officer in charge. Apparently I asked all the right questions and was signed-off on.

Sitting in the actual aircraft, suited up? I have a vague memory of constantly telling myself, “don’t be sick, don’t be sick …” I wasn’t. But it was a close thing and very lucky that the blur of take off, my single circuit and landing came and went with chattering teeth and a sense of absolute awe at being up there.

An experience that was a huge privilege and earned by hours of endless babysitting and being available to the GC and his wife, when asked to step up. It always pays to cultivate the right people in our lives. And I was lucky to have had these opportunities presented to me without a second thought.