Novel Completion Queries, Day Fourteen

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: When was your first flight on an airplane? If you remember, where did you go? Aside from it being your first plane trip, was there anything notable about it?

My answer: It was when I was five, and my sister and I got on a plane — unaccompanied! — to go visit my aunt in Northern California. If memory serves (and it might not) we flew from Ontario, CA to Sacramento. I remember nothing about the flight other than taking off and waiting for our bag when we landed. After that flight, I don’t think I got on a plane again until I went off to college. These days, of course, I’m on planes all the time, including today, when I’m off to Australia.

Your first time?

104 Comments on “Novel Completion Queries, Day Fourteen”

  1. I was six, it was 1957, and we were moving from New York to California. Our entire family, about 40 people, came to see us off, with lots of tears on their part. We were fine with it. I remember there being kajillions of toys given to us, nearly all of which we had to leave behind because there was no room in the suitcases. I also remember getting little silver wings from the flight attendants. And the ice cream that was part of the meal. My sister and I took turns at the window seat.

  2. Flying from Denver to Spokane because Dad’s conference was child unfriendly, so we visited my aunt a week earlier than intended. Dad drove to join us later. All I remember is leaving my teddy bear behind to many tears.

    Also, my cousin put ketchup on his rice krispies.

  3. I don’t remember my first flight. I was 5 months old, and my mother took me from Boston to DC. She handed me to her mother so she could get the luggage, and I apparently took exception to this and screamed the whole time my grandmother was holding me.

  4. My first flight on an airplane was on my 9th birthday, November 17, 1959. All I wanted for my birthday was to ride in an airplane. So my father arranged for one of his friends, who owned a Piper Cub, to take me up. (I believe his name was Mr. Muto, but I could be wrong about that.) We left from a municipal airport, which was, I believe, in Wayne, New Jersey, and flew up and over the family homestead in North Caldwell. We circled the pasture a few times, and I saw my mother in the back yard by the hand pump waving up at me. The cows and sheep did not acknowledge us. I believe that was the only present I got that year, but it obviously was a memorable one.

    Thirty-some years later my son requested a private airplane flight for his ninth birthday. I arranged for a friend who owned a plane to give my son a ride over our house. My son is legally blind, so he wasn’t able to see as much as I was. But he still dug the experience as much as I had done.

    By the way, the family farm was taken by eminent domain, and they built West Essex High School where the woods behind the pasture had been. The town has been thoroughly suburbanized for decades now; North Caldwell is best known as the place where Tony Soprano lived, and West Essex’s most famous alumna is the fictional Meadow Soprano.

  5. I flew to Poland for my last high school’s yearly trip which was to see the concentration camps and understand the Holocaust. That was the significance.

  6. I was 22 and I flew from Chicago to Cleveland. The flight before me was delayed, so we had an entirely full plane and I was stuck in a middle seat. Plus, the delays were caused by weather and we had turbulence the entire way.

    I loved it.

  7. Lisbon to JFK, August of 1979. Didn’t think I was emigrating, but I was. No memories of the flight, but I remember stepping out of the terminal and finding the humidity hard to handle.

  8. I was around 20. Took a flight from New York (La Guardia) to Boston (Logan) on a Lockheed Electra turboprop. Can’t remember why.

  9. I have only the vaguest memory of my first flight, age approx. 3, from Boston to somewhere in California – probably San Fransisco but nowhere near certain. Only real memory was of looking out the window at the clouds below. All my other memories are from the time spent in California, and there aren’t too many of those.

  10. My parents relocated from L.A. to Chicago after they got married, so my mother could get her master’s degree. My maternal great-grandparents and grandmother stayed behind, my grandmother worked at UCLA. My earliest memory of flying, I was maybe five years old, my mother was very pregnant with my brother, and we were flying from ORD to LAX to visit my grandparents. I’m sure there were other trips before then, but that’s the earliest one I remember.

  11. I was older, about 23. It was just a couple weeks after Flight 255 crashed in Detroit and we were flying out of Detroit to visit friends in New Jersey. The plane we were going to load was there and we’re looking at it through the windows and jet fuel was pouring out of one of the wings. Officials would come and stare at it, then someone got a ladder, climbed up and stuffed a rag into the hole to stop the flow of jet fuel, then they announced they were going to start boarding. Then 2 minutes later they emptied the plane and canceled the flight. We ran all over the airport trying to get an alternate flight, finally sprinting to our plane like in the old OJ Simpson commercials.

  12. My first airplane ride was when I was 3 or so, a United flight to somewhere, but far more interesting was my first ride in a small plane. I was at the Flying Circus in Bealeton, VA, maybe six or seven years old. I already had a strong love of aviation, i.e., I had worn out our VHS copy of Top Gun, bedroom walls plastered with pictures of airplanes, that sort of thing. The Flying Circus offers rides in both open and closed cockpit airplanes. My parents thought it would be a great opportunity to get me some experience with one of my passions, but even the little yellow Piper Cub scared the daylights out of me. Somehow my mother cajoled me into taking the ride – and I had a great time. Now, one set of gold wings, 1,500 flight hours, and 100 arrested carrier landings later, she STILL reminds me she had to practically throw me into the back of that Piper Cub.

    p.s. If you’re near Virginia, the Flying Circus is a great first airshow for a youngster. Unlike a show with the Blues or Thunderbirds, it won’t be so noisy that the kid needs hearing protection. The whole thing is on farmland, so there’s lots of wide open grassy spaces for running around if the kid isn’t so enamored of flying.

  13. I was about twenty, and on my own from London (Heathrow) to Stockholm to visit friends I’d then made through the Tolkien Society. I remember exploring Heathrow a bit, and the awe I felt when I saw the departure gate for places like Riyadh in Saudi Arabia – that all those exotic places were Real! I’d had quite a sheltered life – hadn’t been out of England at all before then – so it was really mind-opening for me.

  14. When I was 21, in 1966, Boston to Salt Lake City. Boston to Chicago was fine. When we left Chicago one engine exploded and we had to go back and get a new plane. The stewardess actually tried to tell passengers that the smoke and flames shooting from that engine were perfectly normal.

  15. I was 24 when I got on a little puddle-jumper of a plane to go from Philadelphia to New York City. It had one row of seats on each side of the aisle, and we bounced our way through the skies like pioneers in wagons on a dirt trail. It’s a good thing I enjoyed the experience, because I had six hours to think about it in JFK Airport in NYC before getting on another plane to go to London.

    Although that plane was much bigger and had a smoother ride.

  16. I have no memory of this, but my mother tells me when I was an infant she flew with me and there was trouble with the landing gear of the plane so when we landed the emergency crews were ready and the plane used that inflatable that slide for exiting. Everyone had to take off their shoes and the crew insisted she slide down first since she was the only passenger with a baby. Apparently I not only didn’t cry on the flight but was cool about going down the chute as well.

  17. The first flight I recall is from McGuire Air Force Base to Rhein-Main in Germany in the fall of 1967. 12 hours on a MAC flight with my parents and 4 siblings under age 7. We were not used to sitting for so long, and no amount of “Try and sleep, it will help.” would work with us. The neatest thing I recall is shortly after take-off while we were climbing to our cruising altitude, looking through the plane window and seeing tiny ships on the Atlantic. Very cool, for a nerdy 7 year old.

  18. I got a raging ear infection on my first ever flight. It was in 1985. I was six years old and my sister was four, and the whole family was travelling from Detroit to Corpus Cristi, Texas with a layover somewhere. I don’t remember much about it but I imagine it was pretty awful for my parents.

    The happier memory from that flight was the brand new box of Crayons my mom bought to keep us entertained. 24 colors! In a clear, hard plastic box! Oh, the possibilities! I still have the box and most of the Crayons. It’s the best.

  19. My first flight was a doozy–a flight from NYC to London to meet my brother (on leave from the Army, in Germany). I was the last one off the plane, something he still mocks me for to this day. Remarkably, unlike most flights I have had since, it was not a problem, in terms of motion sickness

  20. 1976 – I was nineteen and went on a school trip to Italy. Toronto-Montreal-Milan-Rome – on a 747. I worked all through high school so I was able to pay for the trip myself. The flight was fascinating and the trip was glorious. Rome, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii, Florence.

  21. A flight to Fly Meeting (the International Drosophila Research Conference) when I was an undergrad. I think, but am not 100% sure, that my first Fly Meeting was in San Diego when I was 21. So, Sacramento to San Diego, when I was a junior in college.

  22. Mine was a flight to Disney World when I was nine years old. I think the actual first flight itself was from Newark to Raleigh, then on from there to Orlando. I got little wings from the flight attendant. I think it was American Airlines, but I can’t remember.

  23. I was 5, London to New York, March 2, 1954, on TWA. At that time they gave out certificates of the flight (suitable for framing), which I still have. That first flight was just the beginning of the trip – we then went New York to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Oahu, Oahu to Canton, China (now more commonly known as Guangzhou), and finally Canton to Sydney, Australia. Non of this single plane, non-stop stuff back then – or jets, for that matter, all multi-engine prop jobs). Don’t remember much of the flight itself, though I have lots of memories of the ensuing two years I spent in Australia.

  24. I was twenty-four. My husband and I flew from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Boston to visit his brother and his wife. I remember landing at Logan, where you come in over the ocean, get lower and lower and lower, as the waves lick at the wings of the airplane, and you wonder, where is the runway? Where is the land? Just before the wheels touch water, there the runway is and there you are, in Boston. Flying home, landing in Cedar Rapids, it was the same thing, only with corn. Lower and lower, over an endless field of corn…I remember laughing hysterically. I wasn’t a native Iowan, and after six years still found the vast seas of cornstalks a bit surreal.

  25. 1987. My parents took 3rd grade me along to visit my mother’s college roomie who lived with her husband and child in New Orleans. Some kind of ear pressure thing happened on the flight, and I had a lot of pain at night. But New Orleans was beautiful.

  26. First flight I remember was with my brother, Frank. We were alone on a Pan Am flight from California to Guam. I was around 12 and my brother was 11. My grandparents had returned to their island home after a twenty-some year stay in California raising their kids. They missed everyone back in the States, so my parents asked us if we wanted to go to Guam and spend time with them. My brother and I were all for it. My family followed us a year later. Guam remains the place where I should have been born, had I a choice in the matter.

  27. While on a family vacation, we took an old Tin Goose plane from Sandusky OH, out to one of the islands in Lake Erie. Can’t remember if it was one of the Bass Islands or Kelley’s Island. What I do remember, was the flight being delayed and my parents trying to keep four active children from going crazy as we waited for the crew to add engines to the wings so the plane could take off with its passengers and cargo.

  28. In July 1958 there was a political crisis in Lebanon, which included US landings on the beaches. So my first flight was an evacuation from Beirut via Istanbul to London – I was six months old, so I don’t remember it. But when I see TV footage now of young families queuing up to leave farflung troublespots with babes in arms I think, hey, I did that once.

    My family had only been living in Lebanon just over a year when I was born, and we went back pretty quickly. I spent my whole primary school career in Beirut, at the British Community School.

    My father was a pilot with Kuwait Airways, based in Beirut, and from his log-book this crisis does not seem to have affected his schedule (the Americans, among other things, occupied the airport). But the Iraqi Revolution that same month did lead to a log-book note “Overlying Iraq prohibited”.

    We stopped living in Beirut in 1970, when my father had to move to Kuwait, and stopped visiting in 1975, the year after his retirement.

  29. I might have been five or six. I vaguely recall lying on the metal floor of a small airplane. I flew often as a child, and didn’t acquire any anxiety about the process until adulthood.

  30. April 14th, 1987. Flew from Columbia, SC to Charlotte, NC then from there to St. Louis, MO.

    The reason I recall the date so well is that is when I reported to Ft. Leonard Wood for Basic and AIT. The final descent was a doozy. With the wheels down and the beginning of the runway in sight, the pilot had to pull up hard and circle back around because Traffic Control had goofed up and had another plane landing on the same runway right in front of us. Oops!

  31. I don’t know the exact date, but it would have been the summer of 1972. My dad got his pilot’s license about a month after I was born, and he bought a 4-seater airplane that summer. He took my mom, my brother & me up the next day.

  32. I was less than a year old, so I don’t remember anything. We flew from the NYCish* area to England to visit relatives.

    The first flight I remember was a similar trip a few years later.

    *Might have been from Newark.

  33. I don’t remember my first flight. My parents took me to the Virgin Islands when I was an infant.

    The first flight I remember was flying back to SFO from visiting my grandmother on the east coast. It was on a brand new 747. This would have been in 1970 or 71. I remember that my sister got apple pie and I fell asleep and didn’t get any.

  34. Summer of 1968, Eastern Airlines, Mom, Dad, brother and myself moving from Philadelphia to Miami Beach. I was 12, and don’t remember the entire event, but a few memories are clear.

    We took all of our critters with us: 2 cats, 1 dog, and an iguana. I think all of them, or at least the cats and Iggy, were in the cabin with us – I remember a lot of carriers by our feet.

    I also remember that Iggy’s tail poked through the holes in the carrier, and freaked out at least one flight attendant who told Mom “I think your snake’s getting loose!”

    (Herpetology note: Iguana tails do not look remotely like snakes.)

  35. June, 1979, Detroit to Hamilton Bermuda via JFK. I had never been on a plane but decided I wanted to spend my 20th birthday in another country. It was fun, though if you’ve just started driving I don’t recommend mixing strong beer and operating a moped on the left side of the road.
    In the last 2.5 years I’ve been on ~200 planes, and have 4 more ahead of me this week.

  36. The first flight I remember was going to LA (from NYC) to visit my grandmother and aunt. I would have been about three and a half, and my mother was largely concerned with my one-year-old brother. It was a night flight, it took years (if I was 3+ it would have been an unflattering number of decades ago, before everything moved faster), and I wandered up and down the aisle being polite but fascinated by the whole thing. Oddly, I do not remember the return trip, but since I started nursery school in New York a month or so later, there must have been one.

    Oh, and someone gave me M&Ms, which I remember very clearly.

  37. That would have been December of 1959 when I was 10. We were supposed to go to Europe by ship, but the youngest sibling had had chickenpox (there may still have been scabs), so we were switched to a MATS flight out of Idlewild (New York International Airport then; JFK now). We actually flew shortly after two major plane crashes, a pattern that held for years after.

    We spent a lot of time above clouds or at night, so I don’t remember much about the ground or the ocean. I do remember my first seat belt (!) and my first room temperature Coke (at Shannon Airport–do flights to/from Europe still touch down at Shannon?) and the propellers taking several minutes to rev up.

    No movies. No TSA. Legroom! (I was shorter when I was 10.)

  38. I was 18 in 1970*, going on holiday with a friend.

    We sat down in our seats and the pilots voice came over the PA. “Good morning, Captain Kirk and his crew welcome you to your flight to Malaga.”

    * This was when Star trek was at its original peak.

  39. When I was 13, several family members and I flew from Tucson, AZ to Miami, FL with a stopover in Dallas-Ft. Worth. I got violently air sick, so most of the trip is a blur of yuck, but I do remember one thing. When standing in line for the ladies’ room in the Dallas airport (and desperately trying not to be sick again before I got in), I heard someone say my name, turned around, and found my kindergarten teacher standing in line behind me. It was so surreal that it actually distracted me a little from feeling nauseous (and she asked a few of the ladies in front of us if I could go ahead of them, which I’d been too shy to do).

  40. Lots of flying up to age 6. My father owned a Supercub back in the 60’s. I was flat out terrified every time I went up in it. To be completely honest even though I love going to airshows any time I get the chance I don’t think I will ever get back in a small private plane again. Since then I’ve only been on commercial flights 2 or 3 times a decade so that experience still remains attractive to me. When I was 20 flew to LA from the Maritimes which felt like a big deal at the time. Santa Monica! Venice Beach! Hollywood!

  41. When was your first flight on an airplane? It was in 1996.
    If you remember, where did you go? I went to 3000 feet.
    Aside from it being your first plane trip, was there anything notable about it? When we got to 3000 feet, I got out.

  42. My first flight was when I was about 8 months old. My mom was really sick, so my grandmother flew from Tuscaloosa, AL to Atlanta, picked me up, and took me back home with her.
    The first flight I remember was when I was 5. We flew to England and my mom & I had different last names, so our seats weren’t together. Fortunately, the guy beside me swapped.

  43. I was 13. I flew from Redding California to San Francisco to visit a friend. The return trip was the interesting part. I found a wade of cash (returned it to the person in front of me). Just as we were getting ready to touch down in Redding, we had to return to SF due to fog. Then we were shuttle bused up to Redding. Got there about 2AM. One of the people at the airport dropped me off at the women’s dormitory at Shasta College (where my sister went to school), so I got to spend the night in the women’s dorms! Not as good as I might have dreamed it would be (as a 13 year old boy) but still fun nevertheless….

  44. It is also my first memory. I was sitting on a lap (Mom’s, I assume) and looking out a round window at tiny little buildings and ants. Someone (Mom?) told me that the ants were people that were so far away that they looked really tiny. I don’t recall but would been have perhaps three.
    Also my longest flight; born to deployed-in-Germany parents, and that would have been the flight to Dad’s next tour, at Wright-Pat, in Ohio.

  45. It was our second trip to Disneyland. (We drove the first time.) It was 1976 and I was twelve. We flew out of SFO, which was about ten minutes from our house, on the mid-70s equivalent of Southwest so we didn’t have assigned seats. I don’t remember it being as organized as Southwest is today. My memory is of the doors opening and everyone rushing on to the plane to get seats. I sat next to my mother and my father and little sister sat next to each other somewhere else on the plane. My mother was terrified of flying. For all I know it was her first flight as well. When we took off she held on to my arm so tightly I thought it was going to cut off the circulation to my hand.

  46. Age 26 or so, from Fort Dodge, IA, where I was in junior college, to Omaha, NE, my hometown, to see my dad’s much-beloved mom who was dying in a hospital. It was a 14-seater puddle-jumper, but I don’t remember anything about either trip there or back. Probably due to the circumstances.

  47. My first flight was from Miami to San Salvador, El Salvador when I was two years old. A number of flights back and forth in years following, of which I have only vague memories. The first flight I remember specifically happened when I was nine or ten. I was flying alone from Pittsburgh to Fort Myers FL. My mother got in touch with an old sorority sister who worked in management at Eastern, and much to my surprise I found myself in first class. Even at the time I thought it was a waste–I was still small enough that I didn’t need the space, and I was way too young for the free booze!

  48. The first one I remember was on a Hercules – we were moving bases from northern Ontario back to Alberta, and I distinctly remember the red netting in the back. I would have been about two years old. According to my mom, I also sat on the pilots knee and helped steer. :)

  49. East Midlands Airport (called Castle Donnington in those days, I think) I would have been about 4, possibly 3.. We flew in a Dakota prop plane to the Isle of Man, my grandparents and my little brother (maybe 2 yrs old) and me.. I remember the island quite clearly, the plane mostly for being frightfully noisy.. In those days, no passport needed on planes.. My most recent flight was to Edinburgh from Norwich, and I got searched coming and going several times – apparently even old ladies don’t travel light (no loaded baggage)
    All UK, of course..

  50. I was an adult. I flew from Nebraska to Kansas City, MO, then to San Diego, CA. I remember how the airport in San Diego felt as though we were going to land in the buildings. Flying back, going over the Pacific Ocean was a bit spooky for me but I have to say I like landing better than take off.

  51. I was 5, we were flying from the Seymour Indiana airport to my aunt and uncles place in Michigan. my dad was piloting a Cessna, I got sick. I get sick most of the times I get on plane. YOU can go fly if you want John, I will keep my feet on the ground thank you very much!

  52. My first flight was from Chicago to London when I was 24. I had wanted to go to Europe for a long time, and finally decided if I did not go soon I would probably never go. It was 1986, so no intense security, just metal detectors, and coach seats still had leg room meant for actual human adults. What I remember most was hitting some turbulence and thinking it was like a roller coaster. At one point I was lifted off the seat and only held in place by the seat belt. Being young and excited, I thought that was fun.

  53. I was about 8 or 9 when I took my first flight with my mom and probably my sister, on a smallish commercial propeller plane from Walla Walla, WA to Portland. I don’t remember why we were going, although probably to visit family. But I do clearly remember the flight down the Columbia River gorge, which is beautiful from any angle, including the air.

  54. Air California from Oakland to Orange County, probably in 1981 at age 11, when a friend’s family invited me to Disneyland. I had been off the ground once before, when I was about 8, in a hot air balloon tethered to the plaza at Lawrence Hall of Science — for some reason, my sister (then 10) won a raffle for the 50′ or so ride into the air — and they let me, my sister and my two older brothers (13, 14) all go up in the thing, even though our parents were not there with us and no permission slips were signed. There were lots of stupid things about the 1970s, but that I got a ride in a hot air balloon without my parents even consenting to it was one of the cooler things.

  55. I was ten, I think – my family was flying to Germany because my Dad had been stationed over there, and the US Military was switching from commercial ships to commercial planes for soldiers and their dependent families. I really liked it, I remember – free food, an in-flight movie, and we were up in the air!

    I used to really love commercial flying when I was in my late teens and Twenties – back before the security and material and weight restrictions. Now, I’ll drive for two days to avoid flying….

  56. It must have been about 1938 because I was ten years old. Didn’t go anywhere — it was at the Lucas County Fair in Maumee, OH — the single-prop biplane just went up, flew around for a few minutes, and landed where it had started. Memorable points: Orville Wright was still alive, and my mother insisted on going along on the grounds that if her husband and little boy were killed she wouldn’t want to live.

    First real (though barely) Commercial flight would have been from San Luis Obispo to some small-plane airport near Covina, c. 1950, while I was stationed in that area briefly after being Drafted.

  57. I was 12 and my parents took my three sisters, a neighbor’s daughter and me to Florida from Christmas through New Years in 1967. I remember spending the majority of my time playing ping pong with a boy my age who then asked me to be his date at the New Year’s party for tweens. I was not allowed to go to the teen party because, I was only 12. My only memory of the party was some guy playing “Greenback Dollar” on his guitar and thinking how I wanted to play guitar like that. I started guitar lessons when I got back from Florida…

  58. At the age of seventeen from Sandusky, Ohio to Rattlesnake Island on Lake Erie. In a vintage Ford Trimotor airplane. In the co-pilot seat.

    Not many top that.

  59. From New York to London, spring 1971. I was a junior in high school, and it was a trip arranged through a teacher’s organization. What was notable? Well, it did occur during the first round of ‘enhanced security’ for flying. It wasn’t about terrorism, it was about hijacking. So even though we were getting onto a chartered flight full of teenagers, we had to be searched. Yes, searched. It was a two step process. First, a man old enough to be my grandfather opened my luggage and examined everything in it. Of course, in the process, he displayed my undies to everyone (yes the boys,too) If that were not enough mortification for a teenage girl, next, we separated by gender, and I went into a room to be patted down by a female officer (never was quite sure what organization they were part of). And yes, every female in the room got to watch. It felt like a little bit of justice, when the Sister in full habit turned up. The officer (attendant?) it seems was Catholic, and could not quite bear to put her hands on a sister. So she just patted down her arms. So much for ‘we have to do this to everyone’.

    When we got to London, everyone was very nice, although we did have to line up to get our passports stamped. Somewhere along the way, though, someone had decided that the search of our luggage was not enough. Several people with soft sided luggage, had their cases cut open (a big X across the entire bag, so not accidental) and patched with duct tape.

  60. First flight was to visit family when I was a baby so I don’t remember that one. My dad and several other relatives worked for an airline so I flew a lot until college graduation aged me out of benefits. Earliest flight I remember was age three in the 1950s to visit Disneyland. Most memorable flight was at 19 when we were almost at midpoint San Francisco to Honolulu and a piece of the wing came off and bashed a two foot hole in the baggage compartment. We turned back at significantly slower speed to reduce vibration and fortunately were able to land with no complications. I have a photo of the plane exterior taken the next day with my uncle inside looking out framed by the shredded metal edges of the hole. Yikes.

  61. My first plane trip was when I was fifteen with my father to London (from LA) for four days and then to a small town in Scotland for a week (don’t remember the name but it was near Edinburgh).

  62. I’d have to ask my mother, but it probably either a puddle-jumper up to…Pellston to go to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island. OR flying out to Albuquerque, NM for our annual southwest vacation (Grand Canyon, NM, 4 corners, etc.). Whichever one it was would have been from Columbus, Ohio.

    Something memorable? Sometime after that, I remember getting my mom to buy me A Horse and His Boy in an airport gift shop. I was horse-mad, but after that book, I became sf/f-mad. As an adult, finding Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Carpe Diem in an airport shop (probably Chicago) during a layover to New Orleans. I devoured it on the flight including gasps, laughs out loud, the whole bit. I’m sure my fellow travelers were amused (or horrified).

  63. When I was 5. A family trip to Ireland, to tour all around and visit relatives, most of whom were my parents’ aunts, uncles, and cousins.

    This was back in the days when they let little kids into the cockpit for a tour and gave us wing-pins.

    I remember the aisles seemed huge, and we ran up and down them (probably to the great annoyance of everyone else) until my parents ordered us into our seats and we fell asleep, curled up in the huge (ah ha ha ha ha) chairs.

  64. I was 17 and flew from Oslo, Norway to New York for my year as an exchange student with a family in LA. The only thing I really remember is being surprised at the mighty shove in the back as we started our takeoff. I’d never felt that kind of acceleration before.

  65. I blame the cat for the above (incomplete) post.

    My dad was a private pilot and we used to go for Sunday “flies” like others went for Sunday drives, so I really have no freaking clue as to my first flight, or, more likely, first several dozen flights.

    I do vividly remember my first commercial flight. I was five years old, and it was a flight from Seattle to San Francisco, where we spent a few days before heading for the ranch outside of Fresno. The plane was so big, and the stewardesses (no flight attendants back then) were so nice, and they gave me things to amuse myself. This was back in the days when commercial flight was a Big Deal.

    After a time in Fresno my dad arrived in the Cessna, and flew it onto the ranch to give various family members rides. I have cousins who talk about this to this day as it was nearly all of their first plane rides. Plus, hey, he landed the plane on the property, not a commercial airstrip, and that’s just not an everyday occurrence there.

  66. My first flight in an airplane was in a small plane – I think a Piper Cherokee, but I’m not sure of that – when I was 17, with my uncle and his three young children along with the pilot. it was just go up from the Shelbyville, TN, airport, fly around for about 20 minutes, and land. I got to sit in the copilot’s seat with a set of controls in front of me, but I wasn’t allowed to touch them. Still pretty cool. My first commercial flight was a little over a year later from Nashville to Memphis, where I changed planes to go to Jackson, MS. Both on DC-3s.

  67. Heh. Too young to remember, but sure heard about it from my mom and dad. They (and less than year old me) flew to San Diego from New Mexico to visit my mom’s parents. Evidentally my ears were a bit clogged, and with the air pressure changes, I got a monster ear ache – and not only cried most of the trip but also for quite some time after we were back on the ground, at least until my ears recovered.

  68. Calculating based on the events surrounding it, I would have been 7 years old and in first grade.

    I went to a somewhat unique school for much of my youth, and one of the more different things they did was to try to inculcate an early and powerful dislike of things like smoking. The way they accomplished this was to show the first-graders graphic movies probably intended for a high school health class, or possibly even for college-age students. The anti-smoking film showed surgery for lung cancer, including closeups of the excised cancerous lungs, and featured a terrifying monolog reciting all the horrendous symptoms that smokers would suffer as a result of their addiction to nicotine.

    Well, my mother was a smoker at the time. And I arrived home from school that day in absolute floods of tears, convinced that any day now, she was going to die a horrible and agonizing death from lung cancer.

    So my mother did what any reasonable person would do. She quit smoking. And since she knew from previous attempts that she would be an absolute bear to be around during the withdrawal, she put me on a plane by myself to stay with her parents in upstate New York for two weeks while she terrorized my father and the family cat with her fury at quitting.

    I had a great time on the flight. That was back in the days when passengers were actually treated like people, not cattle, and as an unaccompanied child, I got extra attention from the stewardesses. Had a grand time with Grandma and Grandpa, too.

    And when I got home, Mom had successfully kicked the habit, and she never smoked again.

    So I guess you could say that gruesome film had its desired effect. Not only did it leave me with a complete and permanent abhorrence for smoking, it also got my mother to quit. That said, I don’t recommend the approach unreservedly, since the nightmares it engendered for several years thereafter were pretty awful, but if you really want to scare your offspring into avoiding all nicotine and don’t mind scarring their tender psyches a bit along the way, that’s a pretty effective method.

  69. My grandmother got extremely sick the week MLK was shot, and my father didn’t want to drive a car with Tennessee plates through Alabama to Montgomery, so we flew. Didn’t fly again for nine years, that time in the army.

  70. That came very late for me. I love trains and ships and I always went on holidays using either of those modes of transport. When I was in my twenties I even went to Indonesia by boat (from Holland.)
    Of course within Europe flying was still very expensive then, so travelling by train or bus made sense.

    Anyway, I think I was 39 when I first travelled by plane, when I visited friends in the US. Since then I have flown many more times but I still prefer boats and trains. Flying is very boring and all the security shit has made the whole experience even more tedious.

  71. My first comment on your website, prompted by a strong memory of my first flight. It was in 1960, when I was 12. My mother, sister and I flew to Malta to visit my aunt and uncle who were in the services there. They paid for us to come as my father had died the previous Christmas and they wanted to do something good for us. The only memory of the flying bit that I retain is a sign of how traumatised I was at the time. While we were waiting in the airport in Manchester for the flight, there was an announcement for ‘Mrs Atkinson and Miss Atkinson’ to come to the desk as there were spaces on an earlier flight. I became the youngest 12 year old and burst into tears because I thought them saying just one Miss Atkinson meant that I would be left to go on the later flight alone! I guess the trauma of flying for the first time was exacerbated by having lost my father and thinking I was going to lose my mother and my sister.

  72. Dear John,

    My first plane flight is also my very first memory.

    I was two, maybe three, so it would have been 1952. My mother (we lived in Brooklyn) took me to show to her sister (who live in Cleveland).

    There’s a single memory, a visual.

    I’m looking obliquely through a plane window, to my right. There are clouds below me.

    That’s all. For several more years, in fact. I hardly recall anything, preschool.

    One hell of a first memory, though.

    I still love flying and I still don’t believe that those things can actually get off the ground. I watch a big jetliner take off and I am thinking, “Naahhhh, it’s gotta be faked.”

    pax / Ctein
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery
    — Digital Restorations

  73. SB to SF also unaccompanied, age 5 or 6. Memory: my father being late to pick me up, but some nice lady employed by the airline stayed with me until he did.

  74. I don’t remember exactly when or how old I was but my grandparents took my mom, my brother and I to Disneyland. We must have flown but I flat out don’t remember it but I’m assuming I would have remembered driving from Sacramento to Disneyland.

    If we actually drove then my first flight was to New York from California as part of a high school trip.

    I really don’t remember much about either flight. This sounds weird but I remember my first time on an elevator more. I was really young and the whole family went to what I think was Macy’s. We drove to Sacramento from Roseville, which was HUGE for us even though they are close, and we get in the elevator and I just couldn’t stop smiling but because I thought it was so fun. I turned away from everybody because I didn’t know what anyone to think it was weird I was smiling so much about an elevator ride.

  75. The date, August 16th, 1969.The place, over Max Yasgur’s farm. The plane, a Cesena, probably a 182, but definitely a Cesena. Woodstock, day 2. Not quite 3 years old, but I clearly remember the sea of people, and the turbulence as we crossed the tree-line and got over the field. Where else can you see half a million strangers in a field?

  76. Oh cool!

    My first flight ever, 11 or 12 years old and unaccompanied, was from Ontario CA to Sacramento to visit my aunt in Northern California (Nevada City). Hey, we’re practically family! … Well, if you discount the other half bazillion people who’ve flown that route. Did that for several summers, saving my allowance to afford the ticket at the sky high price of $67 for the round trip.

  77. 1975, Albany, NY to Albuquerque, NM. On TWA. One stop through Chicago on a Boeing 727. Loved it. Been a fan ever since. Except for the TSA goons….

  78. Like Eva above, my first flight was at 17 to be an exchange student. But I was flying in the opposite direction. I flew from JFK to Frankfurt to live in Germany for a year.

  79. I was 15 and I was going to Disneyland! I was with my BFF and her sister (who was 14), so I don’t remember anything about the plane travel, I’m sure we just talked and giggled. I got a deck of cards. It was on Continental.

  80. August, 1984, on a DC-10. I was three and a half months old, and my folks had packed up their lives to move from England to someplace in Canada where they didn’t speak the local language, because they wanted their daughter to grow up bilingual and because the local aerospace company had hired my dad.

    I don’t remember a whole lot of it, to be honest, but apparently there were secret midnight meetings in hotels between Pratt & Whitney recruiters and my folks, several hours’ drive from where they lived, and they had to be back in the morning so Dowty didn’t catch on. Very dramatic.

    Mum and Dad can now get on quite well in Québecois French, I’m pleased to say.

  81. 1991, flew OAK-LAX to try out for the teen version of a game show that starts with “J” and ends with “!”. I remember at OAK the hallway leading from the ticketing area to the gates had a long row of dial clocks showing the times of various world cities; when I went through that same area last year, only the unpainted circles on the wall were left. I passed the test and thought I had charmed the producers, but alas, syndication fame was not to be mine.

    Oh, and registration for the online tryouts of that same show start Monday March 30th. Not that I’m counting…

  82. I remember it vividly. It was October 1984. I was 19, and I flew from Nashville, TN to El Paso, TX to begin basic training at Fort Bliss, a name I find hilariously ironic to this day.

  83. My actual first plane ride is from when I was a toddler thus can’t remember.

    The earliest plane trip I can recall at present from 1975 or so, it was to my mom’s hometown and we (my siblings and I) stayed for the rest of the summer. This was the very first time we were left anywhere by my parents for any length of time.

  84. February, 1975, Heathrow (London) to JFK, when my father’s job transferred him to a New Jersey branch for what was supposed to be about a year. I was a bit short of 4 at the time, and there were a few more trips back and forth in the next couple of years, so I don’t have any memories that I’m sure were from that flight (although I’m reasonably sure we were seated only a row or two from the movie screen).

  85. Mid 1950s, I was very young, 5 or 6. Mom had left to drive to Huntington WV to visit relatives, and Dad had to work. so he and I flew to Huntington from Beckley WV, stopping in Charleston WV en route.

    It was a DC-3, while on the ground they were steeply canted with the tail nearly on the ground, and the nose high in the air, so we walked up a metal staircase on wheels, and dropped our small luggage into a space surrounded by a cargo net. I sat on the aisle, and could see the instruments in the cockpit. There were cloth curtains on the cockpit door, no clue why.

    Giant rotary piston engines with big loud propellors.

    It was before the current hub-and-spoke routing was implemented, and was more like taking the bus from one small town to another. No security anywhere, the folks at the departure airport actually knew Dad personally, as it was a small town back then.

  86. Summer between 4th and 5th grade (early 80s). I took a class at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry about basic principles of Flight and Air Navigation. As a part of the program, we devised and proper flight plans for a local triangular flight. They arranged for local pilots to take us up in their small planes and fly the plans we made.

    So, my first ride in a plane was in the front seat of a little 4 seater. A far more pleasant memory than any of the commercial flights I have been on.

  87. Mine was the first week of January 1991, age 19. College field trip to Morocco flying London Gatwick to Agadir with Royal Air Maroc. The only distinguishing feature I recall was there being a smoking section at the rear closed off only by a curtain, so the smoke just drifted through to the rest of the plane anyway.

  88. First time was from JFK to London Heathrow in April of 1971. It was our belated honeymoon. After watching the AIRPORT movies I could not believe how small and cramped the 707 was.

  89. Some point in my late teens. We flew from London to Luxor for two weeks gently roasting in the heat and looking at Old Things, on that holiday we also flew from Aswan to Abu Simbel, and since then I’ve flown twice to Scotland (return trips). And that’s it. My overwhelming impression is that in order to fly one spends a LOT of time sitting around in airports waiting, and not very much time at all on planes.

  90. My first plane flight was from National (DCA – I refuse to call it by it’s current official name) to Orlando when I was 8-ish. I remember several things, only one technically during the flight. It was about 15F when we left (It was February) and about 65F when we landed. On the plane my ears were bothering me, so Mom asked my brother to give me some of his gum. When I’d asked he refused because big brothers suck sometimes (at least between the ages of 10 and 16). The pack of gum, soft to begin with (Bubblicious?), was in his back pocket and was practically impossible to get off the paper it was so melty.

  91. At twelve I was already a complete aero nut and was attending the monthly meetings of the local homebuilt airplane club. Thus my first ride was in the front cockpit of a Pietenpol Aircamper, about two hours in a rally-style race, on a beautiful puffy cloud day. At one point a hawk tried to escort us out of his territory – it couldn’t quite keep up with our blistering 65 mph.

  92. Christmas, 1965. My mother took me from Okinawa to Oklahoma for my grandfather’s funeral. I had just turned two. The only thing I remember is that when I dropped my Raggedy Ann, a nun in full habit picked her up and returned it. I proudly informed my mother that Cinderella had given me back my doll.

  93. While we were homestead-shopping in eastern Maine around 1975, some folks in a big Ford station wagon smashed into our VW Bug. The poor little Beetle was utterly demolished, but we all walked away.

    Unfortunately home was 700 miles away in New Jersey. We didn’t want to carry our bags that far, so we opted for air travel, starting with local Bar Harbor Airlines.

    My first plane ride was on a piece of aviation history, a DC-3. It was so great! Loud, bouncy, vibrating, obviously well-traveled… I feel really lucky. Sure made Band Of Brothers a little more visceral.

    Looks like the exact plane is actually still flying:

  94. Back in the Seventies, my high school friend Andy called me up and said his dad would take us for an airplane ride. Right now! Get over here!
    His father LeRoy was a damned impressive man. A security guard at the local prison, he was tall and broad, with a Louisiana accent and a Roman nose that could open beer bottles. Probably. When I first saw him I thought “Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands…”
    He had called the local airport and arranged for a plane, but when we got there it turned out to be a two-seater. So he decided to take us up one at a time.
    First came the pre-flight inspection. LeRoy walked around the plane, peering up at this and that, wiggling flaps and opening doors. He was serious about it; no flying until he was satisfied.
    He started up the engine; the plane shook with energy. Another couple of minutes of playing with the controls then he yelled “Okay Andy! You first!”
    With the doors shut he drove it forward, then turned it around and taxied to the end of the runway, turned it again and started speeding faster and faster and it lifted off the ground.
    I watched as it got smaller and smaller and then it was gone.
    Forty minutes later it was my turn.
    I didn’t fly again for more than a decade, but that was really only half a flight as I jumped out around 2000 feet.

  95. My first flight didn’t happen until I was about to graduate college and flew to Dallas for an interview with General Dynamics. They flew us down, picked us up at the hotel on Friday morning, did the interviews and some group presentations, then took us to the Ft. Worth bus station to catch a bus to the airport. Basically felt like I was part of a herd of soon to be graduated engineers. A few weeks later was my second flight, this time to interview with Motorola in Phoenix. They flew me down, did some interviewing and talks on Friday, then I had a rental car for the weekend to explore Phoenix. Needless to say, the Motorola trip convinced me to take their job offer since I was treated much better as a recruit by them. Ironically, the Motorola division I went to work for was bought twenty years later by General Dynamics.

  96. I can’t for the life of me remember the first one, but it almost certainly would have been from NYC to visit either set of grand-parents, in nw Illinois and sw Missouri respectively. Train was much cheaper in those days, so that was our most common mode of travel — usually the NY Central, up the Hudson Valley and then west to Buffalo and eventually Chicago, where we changed to the Rock Island, which probably strongly influenced our choice of the Central since they both used LaSalle St. terminal in Chicago. Of, if the schedule required, we’d change out at the suburban station where the RI and Central met and crossed the Pennsy.

    But we did occasionally fly — most commonly in TWA Connies, which of course were unique in their appearance. Later on, when I was old enough to travel by myself, I graduated to “mainstream” DC-6s and -7s … then came the jet age, once the British showed they’d succeeded in solving their initial disastrous problems … primarily 707s, and the occasional DC-8.

    Two flights in particular stand out in memory, almost at opposite ends of the spectrum — my first flight in a 727, which had an amazing rate of climb relative to the old stand-bys, even jets, seemed to be aimed upward at a 45-degree angle. And returning from visiting friends in Cincinnati, I chose a Piedmont DC-3, one of the last of that breed still in commercial passenger service — 7 intermediate stops to Wash. DC, and I could feel every slight change in the wind.

  97. I don’t remember it but my first flight was from Chicago to Manila when I was 11 months old. Mom took me and I had my first birthday there with the family. I had the most adorable passport photo.

    I know a traveled quite a bit as a kid but the first flight I really remember was when I went to London when I was 8. My dad was teaching for a semester there and my sister and two of my aunts and I went. I had a brand new Peanuts duffle bag (that I still have!) and I remember one of my aunts freaking out because she hadn’t flown overseas before and I was just rolling my eyes because by that time flying was no big deal to me.

  98. I was 14 and we flew to Europe for the summer. My mother had my three brothers and me each choose two suitcases we could carry and remember them–they were our responsibility. We were most of the way through the summer before I realized my suitcases were substantially heavier than those my two older brothers were carrying.

  99. I was in my early 30’s, but I’m not sure exactly how old, but no more than 33. We were helping friends move to Colorado and they paid for our flight back home. I got that “carsick” feeling I usually get when I try to read for longer than a few minutes while riding in a car while we watched the in-flight “movie” which happened to be the pilot episode of Will and Grace. I kept having to lean back and close my eyes to keep from getting too sick.

  100. webmaster JS –

    thanks for inviting tall tales, helping us suppose rank amateur’s stories might matter too.

    newly celebrating my birthday in the fall 1967, waay before airports became dangerous places by official decree, my first flight was a 707 nonstopper from always peaceful stomping grounds in San Diego to mythical NYC.

    19 years brave and now certified a grownup by Fort Ord boot camp, the day’s final destination was Fort Monmouth NJ about 30 miles south. any memories of the flight are long gone. but once downtown i clearly remember giving away my only money, nearly $2 in pocket change, to a friendly citizen leading leading me to the legendary Grand Central bus station. the negro youngster [i’d swear that was respectful language in the 60s] also helped me drag the duffel bag i’d stuffed with everything i owned, as we ducked underground thru a poorly lit tunnel. which, big surprise, turned out to deliver us a triffling 200 yards later to my bus’ boarding area. was a relief for this haystick to be rolling out of town. and then, uh-oh, we stopped, blocked by rush hour gridlock.

    i never would have guessed a cross country flight, south to north also, was gonna take less time than the rest of the journey to Monmouth, but that’s how the day played out.

    skip forward a few months you could say i was a tad nervous taking wing across the pacific, as the tet offensive decided which side was more determined on the far end. but that’s another story.

  101. Moved to California from New York when I was 4. I remember a lot of it:
    • the smell of the cat throwing up in his carrier in our neighbor’s car
    • my lovely round vinyl bag with the zipper and a picture of a waving stewardess on it
    • spilled a cup of tea on a bench at JFK and my mom used my stuffed animal to wipe up the puddle
    • looked out the window at something that resembled brown chocolate pudding topped with whipped cream, and my mom saying “Those are the Rocky Mountains”
    • When we left NY it was snowy. When we arrived in SF it was a cold spring day. The whole world had shifted.

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