Why I love flying

Air travel has taught us to hate flying, and that’s a huge bummer, because flying is just freaking amazing.

Yesterday I flew from Rome to Brussels, in a window seat on the right side of the plane. I knew if we were lucky, we’d see the Alps, as well as other geographic and geological wonders. We were, and a few of us did. But most passengers, even with window seats, saw nothing. They ignored the spectacle sliding by under the window.

Back when I was in the third grade, I remember hanging out with older kids who argued about what subjects they hated most. They came to an agreement around geography. I saw that as herd mentality, and decided right there to become interested in what they hated, and the result has continuously informed my life.

That’s why I expected to see the Matterhorn and the Pennine Alps yesterday, and got the nice series of shots you’ll see as a slide show if you click on the picture above. I’d seen the Matterhorn from the ground as well, and that helped. But what helped most was remaining curious about geography and geology, and loving to fly. I didn’t let school teach me to hate those subjects way back when, just like I don’t let air travel teach me to hate flying.

I see that Boeing has gone to the trouble, with the new 787 Dreamliner, to give windows and views more respect that we’re accustomed to getting from airlines. I also see that United, with which I have flown close to a million miles, will soon be flying a bunch of 787s. United catches a lot of flak for being an imperfect airline, but my experience with them is nearly 100% positive, and I love the fact that they share air traffic audio with passengers, and is the only airline to do so. They woudn’t if they didn’t love flying too.

So here is an appeal to United, as the 787 launch dates approach: Get in touch with me. If you’d like to make flying lovable again for everybody, I’d like to help.


  1. Richie de Almeida’s avatar

    My worst day flying is still 100x better than my best day on a long-distance bus ride in just about any of the 30-odd countries I have visited…. Only a Luddite could hate flying!

  2. Jan Searls’s avatar

    This is why we never fly together – we both always want the window seat! And I don’t care if your camera is bigger and better.

    Seriously, how often when I was booking your travel did I scour the schedules, cross reference with Seat Guru, consult maps and calculate sun position and – if the date was close, consult the weather – to get you the primo window for observing and photographing the wonders below only to have the airlines change aircraft and bump you up to an aisle in Business class? Great seat on a 757 blown away with a 767-200 substitution, the bane of your travel life.

    A friend of mine flies both of these aircraft for Delta and he just told me this is can be a huge problem for pilots as well because airlines – or at least Delta – does not have the ability to reassign seats in the replacement aircraft in accordance with the original passenger bookings. In some cases, when there is an aircraft change after boarding at a gate and even if it is to a larger aircraft, the gate agents have to rebook all the seats so that they can have have an accurate seat assignment manifest. In one case he told me about, that evolution could have put the crew over their time constrictions and they would not have been able to fly the reseated replacement aircraft on the next leg, and the passengers would either have had to wait for a replacement crew or, more likely, find their flight cancelled.

    So if – in a perfect world – United or any other company does take you up on your offer, add this to your advice: Upgrade seat assignment software to accommodate both the wishes of the customer and the needs of the flight crews when making aircraft substitutions. It can’t be that hard.

  3. David Witter’s avatar

    As a kid I always had my face glued to the window with my map in hand waiting to cross the Sierra’s the Rockies the Mississippi and various cities. I do the same thing today as a 777 Captain for United Airlines. I feel fortunate to have the best seat on the Boeing where ever I’m going.

  4. Dave McNamee’s avatar

    I agree completely. I am always trying to orient myself to the ground, even on coast to coast flights. Like you, I get satisfaction from recognizing cities, rivers, mountains, and other landmarks. I can usually tell 90 miles out which arrival we are going to use into SLC.

    I really think you need to get your pilot license, Doc. The world is even more interesting at 1500 feet above the ground (or lower, if it is safe). On Tuesday morning I strapped myself into a Cessna 152 (or rather, i donned a Cessna 152-it’s so small you practically wear it). I flew around the Bingham Canyon Mine and enjoyed the clear summer air. There was a brisk south wind, so you could practically hover the plane over the ground. It was wonderful.

    Next time you come to Utah we must go flying.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Hi, David. Thanks for weighing in. I love the 777 too. Here’s an interesting thing. If I can’t get an upgrade to the business section, I’ll opt out of premium coach seating and go for one of the back seats on the shady side of the plane, because all the premium seats are over the wing. But the advantage back there isn’t just a better view. It’s proximity to the best window behind yours up in the cockpit: the tall narrow window by the galley in the back. It has a great view toward the ground. These, for example, were all out the galley window of a 777 flying from LHR to LAX. Could be you were in the cockpit for that one. Beautiful trip.

    Any chance you’ll get to fly the 787?

  6. daru’s avatar

    I prefer to fly at night as I can see many sexy building with unique lamp design and placement. So excited with 777 so far.

  7. Warren’s avatar

    Hey Doc!

    We’ve been in Italy this week too. In Amalfi for a friends wedding (scooters to pompeii, castellammare etc).. and have now been in Rome for 3 days.

    We’re leaving today for Berlin, and will be fighting for the window seat. Like you, I can’t get over the miracle of flying.. and will be glued to the window if R allows it.

  8. Matt’s avatar

    “Get in touch with me. If you’d like to make flying lovable again for everybody, I’d like to help”

    hope they listen to you.

  9. Vermont Web Design’s avatar

    I don’t understand how someone could not love flying. I remember when I flew over the Rockies it was absolutely breathtaking!

  10. Robin Capper’s avatar

    The shared audio, Channel 9?, is the reason I choose United, if possible, when flying in the US.

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