Flying High

Caitlin Firth

Moaning softly Caitlin forced her eyes open as the extra two minutes in bed had turned into twenty. Not that it mattered much as Caitlin hated the early morning shift for Rapido airlines.  Somehow Caitlin staggered out of bed as the annoying chirpy voice of the inane local radio DJ was violently switched over to Shaun Keavney’s breakfast show on BBC six music.

A shower was what was needed as the cold water made her gasp and suddenly jolted her brain awake as though an electric charge had been set her awake.
‘Oh for feck’s sake!’ Caitlin swore as the temperature of the water now hit lava level.
Somehow Caitlin had managed to get herself back on track as she pulled on her tights and fixed her uniform.
‘Christ I look like a fecking Nazi in this uniform,’ Caitlin thought as she carefully fixed the Rapido scarf that she had to wear. At least it was early morning so not many people would see her escaping to her car.
Although Caitlin was already behind time she quickly made up for that as she sped through Allerton road. Even though it was the longer route Caitlin took the detour that took in Garston shore with the early morning sun weakly shining on the Mersey.

‘Are you and Cal going away next weekend?’ Vanessa asked Caitlin in Spanish.

‘Ce,’ Caitlin smiled. ‘We’re off to Ibiza the quiet part.’

Vanessa laughed as Calam wasn’t exactly the type to be into the clubbing part of Ibiza.
‘Come on Jed we’ll be all right once we’re up in the air.’

Caitlin raised her eyebrows as a trembling Jed who looked like a grizzly bear in the prime of his life stumbled onto the plane as though he was being forced into a crate.

‘I’m not sure about this,’ Jed stammered. ‘I’ve got a bad feeling.’
‘We’re here now,’ Maggie whispered. ‘It’s just like being on a bus.’

‘Are you okay?’ Caitlin said smiling sweetly.

‘He’s just nervous about flying.’

‘Oh right,’ Caitlin replied. ‘Is there any part of it that you don’t particularly like?’
‘All of it.’
‘Would it help if you sat by where we sit?’ Caitlin asked. ‘You can see at first hand at what we do which might put you more at ease.’
Jed nodded as Caitlin ushered him to the nearby seat.
‘Once we’re up in the air it should be a straightforward flight. I’ve done this route regularly and we’ve had no problems.’  Caitlin said although she didn’t mention the time when the plane had been struck by lightening.
With the passengers all on board and sat down it was time for the air safety instructions. Normally it didn’t bother Caitlin but upon seeing a ever increasing sweating Jed who looked more like a guilty defendent being presented with the extra evidence to prove his guilt tried to speed the instructions up.

Now came the Spanish instructions with the male voice sounding like someone from the Fast Show’s Channel nine with a very overdramatic ‘BRACE!!! BRACE!!! BRACE!!!’
Despite the safety advice coming to a end, Jed’s arse had completely gone that his eyes were painfully closed as though awaiting the guard’s touch to take him to his execution.

‘Sir, can you turn your mobile off,’ Caitlin asked a young lad. It was another pet hate that every flight they had to get some idiot to turn off their device.
‘I have got it switched off.’
‘No you haven’t,’ Caitlin replied. ‘I can see the screen.’
‘Why have I got to switch it off?’
Caitlin bit her lip at the stroppiness of it. ‘Because it interferes with the flight controls.’
‘JUST SWITCH IT OFF SOFT LAD!’ Jed screamed furiously as though he was ready to use all his fear and anxiety by pummelling the lad if he disobeyed him.
It was switched off so quickly that the ashen-faced lad almost dropped it as he slunk back in his seat to avoid the vicious glare of Jed.
‘This is your Captain Matt Law speaking,’ came a casual Mancunian drawl over the intercom. ‘We are now due to take off and we should be arriving at Barcelona approximately ten thirty am Spanish time. Cabin crew please prepare to take off.  Passengers sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.’
As Caitlin fastened her seat belt the engines roared into life with a vicious scream as it now raced upwards with the force bracing Caitlin’s neck back. She always loved this ‘whoose,’ part as the plane soared upwards with Liverpool starting to look small. There was the familiar beeps of the plane as it soared ever higher.
Jed was sweating profusely with every little shudder making him whimper. Indeed his nails were clutched into the hand rest.
‘Not long now,’ Caitlin smiled.
‘Are we meant to go down like that?’ Jed cried.
‘Yeah it’s fine,’ Caitlin replied. ‘He’s just turning the plane.’
More beeps came as instructions came for the cabin crew to get ready to undo their belt.
‘This is your Captain Matt Law speaking. A nice smooth takeoff if I must say so myself. We are currently cruising thirty five thousand feet and we will be shortly be approaching France. The weather might take a bit of a turn but rest assured it’s nice and warm in sunny Barcelona. I shall be keeping you updated later.’
With the plane cruising comfortably the crew got ready with the trolley. A wry smile broke out on Caitlin’s face as Vanessa appeared to get the arseholes who just wouldn’t stop ordering food and in particular alcohol.

Is that it?’ Vanessa said her head ready to explode.

‘Oh and some cheese and onion Pringles for Nigel’

‘I say what about a brandy,’ chimed in Freddie.

‘I’d love a brandy,’ someone shouted.

‘Okay who wants a brandy?’

‘One, two, three,’ Caitlin thought as she saw the red mist engulfing Vanessa’s eyes.
‘Your going to have to make this your last order because other people want food and drink.’

‘I say,’ Bruce said rather offended at the outburst. ‘I really don’t like your tone.’

‘You have already ordered about fifteen lagers, eight gin and tonics, eighteen packets of Pringles, and now you want brandy.  This is not your personal trolley .’

‘Here, here,’ Someone cried.

‘You tell them girl,’ Another shouted as Vanessa actually got a round of applause.

Bruce reddened. ‘Well we are on a stag do.’

‘Why I’m I surprised,’ Caitlin thought.

‘How many brandies and then that’s it?’

‘Say five,’ Bruce said as he saw another hand go up. ‘Six, seven,’

‘I’d be careful if I was you,’ Caitlin thought. Luckily Bruce didn’t ask for anymore although one of the group despite having a face of a gargoyle and the charm of George Osborne thought that Vanessa and Caitlin fancied him.  Somehow he still thought he was onto something as he tried to give the pair his mobile number.

The pair whispered conspiratorial in Catalan about the rugger union stag do group with a few jokes cracked at their expense. One or two of them might be able to speak Spanish but Caitlin was certain they wouldn’t know a word of Catalan.

‘How much longer?’ Jed groaned.

‘We’re nearly an hour into the journey,’ Caitlin replied.

‘I don’t like the look of those clouds.’

‘Don’t worry we’ll be flying above them so it should be fine,’ Caitlin said. ‘Do you want anything to eat or drink?’

‘No ta,’ Jed said as the plane started to shake with a couple of beeps instructing one of the crew to attend the cabin. ‘Why’s the plane shaking?’

‘It’s only a mild bit of turbulence,’ Caitlin said. ‘Just think of it as when you are in a car on a bumpy road. That’s all it is.’

‘You seem to be taking an interest in him.’ Vanessa observed.

‘He’s a nervous flyer so I’m just trying to make it as comfortable as possible.’

‘Anyhow how is Gaz?’

‘Ah I’ve dumped him,’ Vanessa said her forehead frowning. ‘I’m not putting up with his drinking and broken promises.’

‘Good for you,’ Caitlin said.

‘How are you getting on in Breaking Bad?’

‘I’ve just finished the part where Jesse’s girlfriend is dying of an overdose.’ Caitlin said excitedly. ‘Swear to God I couldn’t believe that Walt left her like that.’
The loud humdrum sound of the engines continued to drone on as Caitlin casually looked out of the window with the white fluffy clouds blowing below the plane. Looking out across the ocean of sky relaxed Caitlin who felt the massaging comfort of flying. It was a chance to switch off and no matter how many flights she had undertaken Caitlin always found it theraputic.
At first Caitlin was too much in her own world to take much notice of the gasps from the passengers as sparks could be seen flashing from one of the engines. However it was the sound of the engine that didn’t sound right that tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention. Indeed it sounded like the bass or lead guitar player had suddenly stopped playing.
Everything suddenly felt like a weird dream as Caitlin tried to regain her senses which couldn’t quite believe that the plane was now in trouble. A loud moan emanated as the airbus plane promptly descended eight thousand feet without warning that made Caitlin feel as though she was on the big dipper. Her stomach had felt that giddy excitement as it leapt up and then swiftly back down.

Screams broke out most notably from Jed with a few wits shouting ‘I love you!’ without realising the seriousness of the situation as they started to laugh. Another smart arse cried ‘Hey love open up the bottle of champagne. If we are going to go down then we might as well do it in style.’

That bravado quickly ended as the plane started to shake with the seat belt sign flashing on as the oxygen masks flew down.

Laughs now turned to cries and sobs with a sombre graveyard silence amongst the passengers as the low off-key noise of the planes remaining engine continued to drone on.

Caitlin and Vanessa along with their fellow cabin crew tried to remain calm as they helped the passengers put on their oxygen mask. With the emergency lights the only illumination it was an eerie feeling of walking into the woods at Halloween when it was twilight.

It was hard comforting Jed especially as Caitlin was now scared. This was the first time that she had felt trapped in the air with the stone cold sober awareness of her own mortality.

‘Matt and the crew are good pilots so we are in safe hands,’ Caitlin said as she somehow managed to resist the surging burning anger of frightened frustration building up inside her.

‘We are going to die, we are going to die,’ Jed repeatedly moaned as though he was praying. ‘I knew we shouldn’t have flown.’

‘Jed listen to me,’ Caitlin smiled. ‘We will be okay. Just listen to our instructions and I’m sure the Captain will be giving us some information soon.’

On cue came the dulcet tone of the Captain Matt Law who spoke as though the plane was a bike that had just suffered a minor puncture.

‘This is your Captain Matt Law speaking.’ ‘Due to a minor fault with two of the plane engines we are going to have make, a slight detour to Toulouse Blagnac airport. Be rest assured that the other engine is working fine but it will be a bit of a bumpy ride as we come into land. There will be more details as we approach Toulouse airport. Please be as comfortable as you can be, listen and obey any instructions by the cabin crew. Please note we will shortly be making a small descent. I will be speaking to you all shortly. Cabin crew please prepare to land and listen to further instructions from me.’
With that Caitlin swiftly went back to her seat with the funeral hum of the remaining engine and the shadowy dark aisles that were weakly illuminated by the emergency light.
Vanessa and Caitlin looked on anxiously as a grim faced Andrea listened to the Captain as he informed them that two of the engines had failed.Furthermore they were going to have make an emergency landing in not so perfect conditions.

‘We will be approaching gusty winds and rain so get ready for a not so perfect landing.’  Andrea whispered to the cabin crew.

Caitlin gulped as soon as she heard that. Upon seeing Jed she somehow forced a smile and somehow managed to force a lie that everything was going smoothly and that they would be safely landing soon.
‘Ladies and gentlemen this is your Captain Matt Law speaking.’ ‘We are shortly approaching Toulouse airport so make sure you seatbelt is fastened.’ ‘Can cabin crew please prepare for landing.’
More beeps came as Caitlin obediently carried out her duties as the plane started to shake. This though was just the appetiser as people started to wail in unison as the airbus now started to rattle violently that they thought that they were on a rollercoaster.
A low moaning noise wailed as though the plane was crying out a distress call as it descended quickly as it appeared to be a battle between the outside elements and Matt Law’s crew.
With Vanessa and Harry looking pale with the tango orange tan of Pam turning more white than a bucket of whitewash Caitlin thought that this was it. Looking out of the window the sky was grey as the plane continued to shake like a dice inside a cup this was not how she wanted to die.
Caitlin wanted to pass away aged a hundred peacefully in her sleep surrounded by relatives. Not in a flying tin waiting to hit the ground with screaming passengers. How was it was going to go? Would she pass out or would Caitlin feel the intense pain and sudden blackness as her life was snuffed out?
It alarmed and frightened Caitlin that everything would suddenly be nothing. No more feelings, thoughts, or dreams. All Caitlin could think of was of her Mum, Dad, and her older brother’s nephews and nieces. Then came Calam. No longer would Caitlin enjoy that gooey feeling of being with Calam. To feel love and enjoyment that life brought.  Plus she wouldn’t get the chance to finish Breaking Bad or enjoy her Mum’s cooking.

Even the silly things of not being able to go to gigs, enjoy a bar of chocolate or sticky toffee pudding came to mind.  Miserably Caitlin felt gutted that she wouldn’t get to see MGMT who were performing in Manchester.
Caitlin wondered if her soul would view her body and her Parents, family, and Calam before leaving this world? No it was just going to be dark and nothing.
The plane moaned like the titanic about to go down as Matt instructed the crew to prepare for an emergency landing.
‘Ladies and gentlemen this is your Captain Matt Law speaking. We are approaching Toulouse airport and we are about to land. Cabin crew we are about to land.’
However this was going to be a battle as the plane made a turn and then went up and then down shaking ever more as Matt and his crew tried to get the plane into position. More cries broke out with people even hugging each other as the plane swooped towards the nearby buildings before rising back up.
‘BRACE, BRACE, BRACE!’ The automated computer yelled before the theatrical Spanish voice frantically shouted ‘BRACE!!!!! BRACE!!!!!! BRACE!!!!!!!!!!!!’
‘What a way to go,’ Caitlin thought miserably. ‘The last words that I hear will be some manic Spanish eejit screaming brace.’
It was too late to pull out as the plane descended to land as it shook ever more violently that Caitlin wished that if her life was going to end it would do so now. The ground was getting ever closer as Caitlin closed her eyes wincing as she expected to hear a loud bang of the nose of the plane violently hitting the ground.
Everybody was violently thrown about with Caitlin feeling a rag doll in the clutches of a Staffordshire bull terrier.  It was coming the moment was coming when everything would be turning black.  Caitlin closed her eyes and tried to ignore the crying going on in the background.  Jed was whimpering as he mumbled for the hundreth time that he shouldn’t have got on the plane.

There was the loud piercing wailing of the remaining engine as the plane lurched up again and shook so violently that at one point Caitlin thought the plane was going to land on its side.  Somehow the pilots managed to steady the airbus as it started to circle to prepare to land again.

Once again the plane shook as the gale force winds battered the plane like a giants fist as it did its best to send the airbus to the ground.  Like a groggy boxer on it’s last legs Matt and his co-pilots tried to steady itself as they again attempted to make another descent.
More wails broke out as the plane started to shudder that Caitlin just wished that this torture would end even if meant that her life was snuffed out.  Jed was clutching the arm rest whilst sweating as though he was in a Mickey Mouse costume in a sauna.
‘BRACE!!!!  BRACE!!!  BRACE!!!’  Screamed the automated computer as the plane shook violently as the plane made another attempt at descending.  Yet again the plane was shaking with the pilots attempting to straighten the plane.  Caitlin gulped and knew it was too late now as Matt started a sharp descent that it was as a rough as a ale house clearance at a Sunday league match.

This was it thought Caitlin as the wail of the plane with the ground starting to look more close.  Closing her eyes Caitlin tried to think about her family and hoped that she wouldn’t think of anything silly as her final thoughts.
Screams broke out as Caitlin waited to feel pain or of her life being snuffed it.  However it was the sound of wheels hitting the tarmac as it raced down the runway before getting ready to taxi.  Fire engines raced towards the plane as a huge round of applause broke out for the crew.

‘Ladies and gentlemen I apologise for the rough landing but it is a bit wild out there.  Please stay in your seats and await further safety instructions.’
Caitlin could feel the colour returning to her cheeks as she smiled confidently at Jed as if to say that she hadn’t been petrified.  It did seem to take eternity but eventually they managed to herd the passengers off.  Despit their lives being in danger it still didn’t stop the wally who demanded to take their overhead bag with them when instructed to simply leave the plane.
Although Caitlin had made light of it to her family and Calam it secretly brought a warm glow that she was able to ring them and hear their voices.  No more would she moan at her Mum always telling her to eat properly or roll her eyes as Calam managed to find an obscure South American football match.  Well not for a while at least but the hugs when she eventually got home and the week after when Caitlin visited her family in Belfast was the best feeling in the world.


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