The Friday Fillip: Sublime and Ridiculous

There’s a fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous. Often it’s simply a matter of stepping outside an idea and looking back: to take an example, hockey — or sex, if you’d prefer that — is both an exciting target for one’s passion and a profoundly silly way for grownups to disport themselves.

I feel that way to some extent about flying. I’ve been doing it for what seems to be to be a long long time, from the days of partly pressurized DC-3s, though Super G Constellations, Vickers Viscounts and Boeing 707s, on to the airliners of today. And over time the thrill has both worn off and remained. It’s sublime to fly, to move through the air at great speed — at any speed at all — and to look down at clouds and our patchwork efforts below. It is the stuff of dreams in fact. But at the very same time it’s the epitome of nonsense to be strapped into place along with hundreds of others, fed dried and recycled air, questionable food, and edicts from loudspeakers — all at 30,000 feet sans parachute and a map.

One of the things that’s missing from commercial flights, so far as I’m concerned, is a sense of what’s going on at critical moments (a.k.a take-off and landing). This lack is felt as a loss of control, however imagined that might be, and hence a possible source of annoyance or anxiety; and felt as a disappointment, because the details of flying that might be interesting have been curtained off. So I offer you today a view from the cockpit — that place you were once able to visit — if a child or otherwise able to catch a flight attendant’s fancy. You’re going to be on a Lufthansa Airbus A380 as it approaches and lands at San Francisco. There will be footage from six cameras and subtitles when the crew is speaking German or when (as is usually the case for my ears) the communication with air traffic control is garbled. (The Airbus 380 is currently the largest airliner, weighing in at over 800,00 pounds and carrying more than 500 passengers. Do you sense the sublimity and ridiculousness of this thing?)

If cockpit flicks are not your thing but you’d still like to fly, here’s a silly little game that has no point other than to let you propel an imaginary you through the air is though a superhero or in a dream. (Hint: when you’ve finished flying the way and that, be sure to go up, all the way up.)


  1. I could not agree more, commercial flight is painful. As far as I am concerned let’s bring on the hyperloop!

    Seriously, let’s make this happen folks, we can do it, we have the technology!
    Anything to get me off the airlines and I’m not afraid of flying I just find it one of the most aggravating experiences that we are subjected to.