Bird’s Eye View

Frequent flyers tune out the pre-flight safety instructions. They’ve heard it all before. They know how to fasten their seatbelts.IMG_1736

Just how likely is it that the plane will go down? And will those instructions actually help you? The rare times a plane crashes you don’t hear about people being saved because they had their seatbelts fastened.

Even though I don’t fly often, I have reached the point where I only give half an ear to the spiel before takeoff. On one flight though I remember listening to every word closely – and asking questions.IMG_1743

It wasn’t a commercial flight though. There weren’t 400 people on board, just two. Me and the pilot. I can assure you I paid very close attention to his words. No flight attendants were going to assist me if we ran into problems.

I remember we didn’t have parachutes, but we did have life jackets in case we had to ditch in the water. Which made sense given that we would be over the Mediterranean for most of the flight.IMG_1757

I’ve always wanted to take a Mediterranean cruise, but the opportunity has yet to arise at a price I can afford. However, in 2009 we visited friends in Malta and when I was told an aerial tour of the island (and the sea) was possible, I jumped at the chance.

From the air you can see just how calm the waters are. The pilot told me that fish spotting is illegal, but happens all the time. The water is calm and clear enough that you can spot the schools of fish from whatever height we were at (he told me how high that was, but I forget now).IMG_1759

One thing you could also see clearly, I am told, was the boatloads of people heading to Malta or Sicily – most of them coming from Libya. Such images are part of the daily news in 2017, but unknown to us North Americans back in 2009. I’m not sure if it was the first time I had heard of the migrant crisis that is causing so many difficulties in Europe, but it was definitely the first time it felt real.

Given that it was before the Arab Spring and the various ISIS conflicts, most of those trying to cross the ocean were economic migrants, not refugees. I understood that the boats were coming with increasing frequency and causing a financial stain on the government.IMG_1736

I asked what we were supposed to do if we spotted such a vessel. I was told that we would report it to Maltese authorities and let them handle it. I didn’t ask if they would accept the people or try and force the ship back to the mainland.

It was a beautiful day. Malta in July is hot, and a little brown looking. The ocean looked cool and inviting. We didn’t need to use the floatation devices.

Pretty much anyone who flies regularly has a long list of complaints about the indignities of air travel. Long lines, stale air, poor quality food, cramped seats and the list seems endless. Commercial aviation does have one advantage though over a two-seater plane. Passenger jets have washrooms.

Before we took off, the pilot held up an empty plastic soft drink bottle and a funnel, announcing, “and if you need to use the toilet, this is it.” Sorry, I didn’t think to take a photo of it.

Not much privacy in a two-seater. I had been forewarned though, and had limited my fluid intake, so I didn’t find out how well the system works.


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