747                            Back Home

My real job (not as proprietor of Weeville.com) requires me to do a bit of traveling.  I have flown a whole lot more times than the average farmer does, but not nearly as much as a whole lot of other people.  So I’m no travel expert.  I wouldn’t even consider myself to be a travel “veteran.” 

But it happens.  I’ve been through maybe a dozen or more airports and experienced only some of the things that can happen with that.  I say “some” because the possibilities are limitless, and I don’t want to press my luck in any way.  There will be future trips. 

My business air travel to this point has been all on this continent – U.S. and Canada.  So I have not had the opportunity to do an oceanic thing on a really, really big plane like a 747.  I always start my trips in Charlotte, N.C., where the sight of a 747 is relatively rare. 

My most recent trip gave me my best look at one ever.  I was on a commuter jet that was No. 2 on the runway behind No. 1 – a 747.  It took a while to realize it.  You can’t see forward from a window seat on a passenger plane.  I was gazing out the window, scoping it all out when I noticed an odd thing.

We were stopped on the taxiway, near the starting end of the runway.  The wind sock was pretty much filled and pointing directly to the left.  Strangely, there was a wide swath of grass beside the taxiway pinned down by wind, blowing directly to the right.  What the…?

I glued my face to the window, trying to see.  I saw a wing ahead of us.  A BIG wing, and it was much higher than our airplane.  I smeared my face on the window harder and saw a tail – the horizontal stabilizer overhead.  WAY overhead.  Gosh, whatever that thing is, we’re underneath it. 

Finally the big plane made the turn onto the access to the runway and there is was – a 747,  a cargo jet with almost no windows.  Huge.  It crawled out to the end of the runway and made its turn to get squared up for takeoff.  This thing had more wheels than a shark has teeth.  And it looked like they all swiveled.

Everybody on my side of the plane was providing narrative – “Look at that thing!”    “Can it turn that sharp?”   “Wow, he made it.”

Lined up on the runway, the pilot poured on the coals to get the 747 out of there.  The only description I can come up with is thunder.  I’ve been to several space shuttle launches and it can’t honestly come close to that, but it was thunder from where we were spotted – only a few hundred feet from it and behind it.  I had to think that noise regulations nowadays wouldn’t allow the invention of  a new aircraft that is that loud.  It shook the fuselage of the plane I was in.

Down the runway it went.  With an engine and a whole lot of wing overhanging the Charlotte runway on either side, the thrust from the 747’s outboard engines was tearing up dirt and grass that just sat there every other day of the year.  It formed a swirling brown vortex behind the plane that looked like the 747 was being chased down the runway by a horizontal tornado.

Everybody in the plane I was in was still providing narrative – “Will it fly?”

Yes, it did.  Way down there somewhere it lifted off.  The folks seated on my side of the commuter jet all said, “Ahhhhhh – there he goes.”

It lifted off and was just hanging there.  From our perspective, it was hovering like a helicopter.  It’s so big, it doesn’t get smaller in a hurry like regular-sized jets do when they leave.  A flying WalMart.  It seemed like minutes before we got any sense that the 747 was heading away.  Man, oh man,  that was a spectacle – “normal” in the big world, but definitely a spectacle to little old me.

And now there’s a bigger airplane.  Airbus announced the release of the biggest passenger jet yet – what is it, the A380?  It seats 555 passengers on two decks with lounges and casinos and child care centers onboard.  NBC news called it a flying cruise ship.

And without the luxuries, the Airbus can be outfitted to carry only passengers in seats, like any other airplane we fly on.  That way, it can carry over 800 passengers.

It took this long for me to see a big plane up close.  But it’s not big anymore.

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