We flew back from Boston earlier this week after a great holiday on the east coast with friends. Traveling six miles high through the night skies, my head against the window, I tried to remember how many times I’d made this journey over the years. I lost count, and thought how ubiquitous air travel had become since I first visited the States in the late 80s.
At first I thought it was a reflection in the glass of the porthole. But this bright triangle of white and red lights didn’t move when I moved. There, right under our starboard wing was another plane; silhoutted against the moonlit clouds below it seemed impossibly close. I looked around, no one had noticed it. I woke Jen, she seemed unperturbed. Gradually the lights overhauled us. They must have been very clearly visible to our pilot.
Is there just so many planes in the air now that we have to fly in tight formation across the Atlantic? God knows how many miles I’ve traveled through the air but for the first time in years I felt vulnerable in an aircraft.
The rest of the flight was listless. We tried to stay awake when we got home but ultimately fell asleep listening to Radio 4. I woke with a start “Air France flight 447 is missing in the Atlantic with over 200 passengers and crew feared dead”. I’ve listened to headlines like these before and always taken refuge in statistics. But there I lay; unsettled by the news of an air disaster in a way I’d not been before. I felt an enormous sympathy for these poor travelers so far from help and their loved ones waiting. I held Jen’s hand and felt the confusion and lucky guilt of a distant survivor.