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Sunday World - - Opinion -

FLY­ING is an oc­cu­pa­tional hazard. To say that I am fre­quently on the air when driv­ing to my desti­na­tion is im­prac­ti­cal.

In the words of Billy Bob Thompson: I don’t have a fear of fly­ing; I have a fear of crash­ing.”

A while ago I had rea­son to visit the Square Kilo­me­tre Ar­ray (SKA) in the North­ern Cape.

My kite was wait­ing at Lanse­ria In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Johannesburg.

The host was kind enough to char­ter a bird for us.

When one thinks of a char­ter plane, one thinks of lux­ury.

Alas, the minute I laid my eyes on the air­craft on the run­way, my hopes fiz­zled.

It looked like a Nis­san E20 minibus with wings. In­deed, when you board, you had to bend slightly as you would in a minibus taxi.

There were also no air hostesses; those beau­ti­ful souls in uni­form that make fly­ing a pleasant ex­er­cise just by sashay­ing be­tween the aisle.

In­stead, there was a cooler bag at the back with re­fresh­ments to help our­selves. No meals.

The pi­lots sat so close you could tap them on the shoul­der when you ex­tended your hand.

How­ever, they were typ­i­cally very friendly and re­as­sur­ing. Soon we were in the air.

As is the cus­tom, the pi­lot told us the time and dis­tance and the weather con­di­tions.

Wor­ry­ingly, he told us to brace our­selves for tur­bu­lence as we fly over Car­letonville.

We hadn’t even had the chance to get prop­erly ac­quainted with our fel­low pas­sen­gers when we hit the storm.

In a big­ger air­craft such as a Boe­ing or even bet­ter, the Air­bus, the rat­tling wouldn’t have both­ered me but in that Tazz-on-wings, I truly came to know the mean­ing of fear.

The storm out­side made it im­pos­si­ble to tell whether we were nose-div­ing or still fly­ing on course.

There was ab­so­lute si­lence in the cock­pit as the pi­lot clearly bat­tled on the con­trols.

The lady next to me gave me a sheep­ish smile and for a sec­ond I wanted to en­ve­lope her in an em­brace so that if we died, we ar­rived in heaven in each other’s arms. I hoped that would be my only ticket to en­ter the king­dom of heaven: God would say I was chival­rous. Oth­er­wise, noth­ing in my life thus far sug­gests that I would en­ter par­adise. As the hymn goes: My sins are higher than the moun­tain.”

I only re­strained my­self from hug­ging the lady be­cause even then, I hoped the storm would be over and I imag­ined how stupid I’d look cling­ing to her, in broad day light, in ter­ror for fear of death.

To be sure, we were all ter­ri­fied, but hu­man be­ings have the pen­chant to make mirth of dan­ger in hind­sight.

When the storm had passed, I rushed to the cooler bag hop­ing to mix my­self a dou­ble gin.

In­stead, I was con­fronted with bot­tled wa­ter and some non­al­co­holic bev­er­ages.

I went back to my seat in dis­ap­point­ment.

In a week when the rand nose­dived af­ter the Hawks sum­monsed Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han, I can as­sure fel­low South Africans that the storm will pass.

Let’s just fas­ten our seat belts.

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