Flying, Musings, Travel

Night Flights

Night flights are a cross between fabulous and awful. The cabin lights are dimmed, people sleep for the most part. On this particular flight we took off in clouds – not just clouds, but a completely overcast sky of thick clouds spewing rain on the Mid-Atlantic. The weather forecast painting so bleak a picture that the normal route for the Washington DC to Phoenix flight was altered to the north to get around the storms.

The pilot made the announcement, then offered a bright spot: Once we got above the clouds and to the north of the current weather, we’d likely have smooth air all the way west. He also said despite our 15 minute delayed take-off, we were running about 10 minutes ahead of schedule and he was working with air traffic controllers to “straighten out” the diverted course, which would get us to our destination even further ahead of schedule.

The rerouting added a lot of time to the flight according to our captain.

I looked out the window as we flew through the cloud bank. It enveloped us completely. There was nothing out the porthole except for gray. No ground below. No blue sky above. There was only a glowing gray world, ever-darkening as the sun set somewhere out there beyond the gray. I leaned my head against the window and dozed, lulled by the unchanging world outside.

I’m not sure how long I napped. I didn’t bother to check my phone. When I woke, it was clear. Solid blackness punctuated by sparkling dots of stars above and shimmering golden flecks of light from the towns and cities we flew over. It was a captivating scene.

A small town caught my eye with its jewel-like glimmer.

I snapped a picture of the town below and wondered where we were. During the daytime, Greg spots the runways on the ground, follows our route on a couple of his favorite apps and accurately identifies our location. On this flight, he’s not here. I flew east without him to watch my granddaughter compete in a gymnastics tournament. It was a whirlwind weekend, so he opted to stay behind and get some work done. That left me looking down at Earth, wondering, “Are we over Ohio? Is that Detroit or Chicago? Are we further along in our flight?”

I could see the flashing beacons on runways, but I couldn’t make out the layout of the airports below me. I resigned myself to being blissfully unaware. I mentally celebrated a certainty: It was part of the USA. That is for sure. No way we flew so high we were over Canada, besides, I reasoned to myself, there aren’t really any cities this big this far west in Canada, right?. My lack of knowledge of our neighbor to the north nagged a bit at me.

Somewhere over the middle of the country a city sparkles in the darkness.

Another few minutes passed and the world outside lost most of the golden glitter. Rural America offers fewer specks of light. The flight attendants came by to offer water. The cabin, remarkably quiet due to the nighttime setting, was only broken up by the occasional crackle of a food wrapper. No conversations pierced the silence. No babies cried. Every few rows the illumination of someone’s cell phone or laptop displaying a movie or perhaps another person inspired to jot some words down digitally.

It was so dark you couldn’t see the horizon, just a difference between the diamond sparkle of stars and the golden shimmer from lights on the ground.

My phone shows just after 8pm, but in the plane it feels more like midnight. We’re about halfway through the flight. Way off in the distance, another large cluster of lights – a city of substantial size. The plane gives a little shudder as the pilot encounters a patch of rough air. The seatlight sign lights up above my head as a “bing” sounds. Another difference between night and day flights, no announcer breaks the silence to point out the seat belt sign’s newly lit status, reminding us all to stay in our seats.

Unlike the late evening into night flight we took that inspired Greg to wax poetic, this flight was almost entirely after dark – pitch dark. Thankfully, it’s not a red-eye, but it felt a lot like one. I am reminding myself I will be home and in my own bed tonight, comfortably snuggled up to Greg – warm, safe and loved.

There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Every once in a while, check it out from the sky at night.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2022 — Unless otherwise indicated, no compensation was received for this blog.

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