Those of you of a certain age will no doubt remember the A-Team's character B.A. Baracus. He was rough, tough and good-looking. I share one of his qualities but sadly none of those I just mentioned. Like him I have a fear of flying.
When the A-team had to fly on a mission, they secretly drugged B.A. and he was then carried onto the plane unconscious. When he woke he found he had somehow been transported to another country. Sounds like heaven to me!
I managed to avoid flying completely until my late 30's and then the special school I taught in was offered a free trip for 10 students from Gatwick to Shannon in Ireland. The whole staff bar me wanted to go and put their names in a hat to draw the names of the lucky two. I was persuaded to put my name in ("How do you know you hate flying if you've never flown?") and I agreed since the odds were heavily in my favour. Disaster! My name came out second. I still think it was a fix!
With my hero B.A. Baracus in mind, I mustered what courage I could and off we set. The plane (a DC-10) gathered speed and it was obvious to me that it stood no chance of getting off the ground before the end of the runway. I reflected on my pleasant but short life as I prepared for death. Luckily, my thoughts were interrupted by the realisation that we were airborne.
We seemed to keep rising and I wondered for a moment whether I had boarded the space shuttle by mistake but no, we eventually levelled off and I found myself at a height of 30,000 feet strapped into a cigar tube. With my students around me, I knew I mustn't show fear and so I went into a state of early rigor mortis with a fixed, botox-like grin on my face.
As the flight continued, I allowed myself the occasional breath and even managed to look out of the window at the cloud just below us. There was then a tap on my shoulder and I received wonderful news from a stewardess. One of my students had been sick all over the floor and would I come and clean it all up? Too right I will!
I gleefully forgot all my fears as I scrubbed away on my hands and knees, delighted to have something familiar to do. As I was down there, the pilot announced that if we looked out of the port windows, we could see Concorde pass us some 20 miles away. I stuck to my task trying not to worry about us spiralling out of control as everyone went to the left side of the plane.
Somehow we landed without bursting a tyre, spent a lovely time in Shannon and boarded for the flight home. Now that I was an experienced flier, I knew exactly what terror lay ahead, took my seat and settled into my death pose.
Shortly before landing at Gatwick came the worst moment of all. My colleague pointed out of the window next to her and said "Look that's the village where I live!" It was then that I completely lost my presence of mind as I leaned over her to see. The pilot chose that precise moment to bank the plane and as my stomach bailed out of the plane and my vertigo kicked in, I quickly sat back in my seat.
So it was that my fear of flying became a terrifying reality. It was every bit as scary as I expected and then some. Would I ever fly again? That, as they say, is another story.....