Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 11 March 2011

Do you have the moxie to sit here?

Novels can improve on nature. My hero, Jana, is more civilised, more sympathetic and speaks better French than me. Since I am spending a year in her company I wouldn’t have it any other way. But she’s superior elsewhere: she flies planes.

Piloting requires technical skills. On the Cessna 172 dashboard about twenty sources of information must be checked and – more demandingly - interpreted. Some are more important and may be ignored only for a minute. As I construct take-offs, flights and landings I imagine I could manage this.

It’s the other side I worry about. Unlike cars and boats planes operate in three dimensions but it would be fatal to imagine this as simply a sequence of two-dimensional equivalents of roads and waterways. To gain height you climb; climb inadvisedly and you stall (ie, lose normal control of the plane); fail to correct a stall and you spin; spin… well, you can guess.

Ironically, in the perfect landing you flirt with the stall. You approach the runway slowly and it’s dangerous to fly slowly. The exterior of the plane is “dirty” with flaps and undercarriage down; the controls are less responsive. At the right moment you cut the power and the plane stalls into touchdown.

I might even manage this. But have I the capacity to be observant – all the time? This is what distinguishes flying from driving a car. Remember those lapses on the motorway? They mustn’t happen in the air. There are routines that help but do I have the temperament? Happily my age makes the question irrelevant.