Friday, August 24, 2012

32000 feet from Alaska

According to the mapping program showing on the screen on the back of the seat in front of me, I’m 32000 feet over Alaska right now.  It’s interesting the routes that airplanes take due to the curve of the earth and wind currents and all; to get from L.A. to Beijing we flew up the coast, over Alaska, and then we’ll cross the Bering Strait and part of eastern Russia, then follow the Russian coast down into China to Beijing.  Several people have referred to this flight as ‘crossing the pacific’, but really we’re only over open water a minor part of the trip.  

Flight-themed songs keep popping into my head; I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again…right now you’re thirty thousand feet above me, I’m just out here watching the planes take off and fly…when the plane goes down, I’ll remember where the love was found…okay, maybe I shouldn’t sing that last one too much.  

I love these maps they do on long distance flights now; this is the best one I’ve ever seen.  It offers a variety of views: entire route, what’s outside the left side of the plane, what’s outside the right side of the plane, the cockpit view, the external view, overhead, 360°, and you can even set it to cycle between them.  I like knowing what we’re flying over, and how far we’ve come, and how many hours are left to go (exactly seven right now).

It’s a good thing I’ve got the map view, because I can’t see outside for sure.  This plane is set up with nine seats across, three three and three.  I’m in the aisle seat of the middle set, which is quite comfortable since there’s no one in the middle, giving us some space to stretch out.  I’d have to look over three people and an aisle to see the window, and then even if I do that, I’m over the wing, so all I can see is white metal.  And then, it’s apparently really bright out there because everyone has kept the windows firmly shut nearly the whole flight.  

I did have some good window experiences in my first two flights, though.  We took off from Nashville at 5:30 am flying south east; as we flew, the sky turned pink and then orange and then we watched a brilliant sunrise.  I slept the first part of the flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, but when I woke up we were over the deserts of Arizona.  I saw canyons (not sure if I saw the Grand Canyon, but possibly), mountains, and what looked like salt flats displayed beneath me; I took quite a few pictures then as I had a window seat for once.  

It still doesn’t seem quite real that I’m passing the Bendeleben Mountains on the Alaskan coast (especially since I’d never heard of them before), and that in just a few hours I’ll finally be back in China. 


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