Why I Love Being a Pilot

  • 2016-07-07
  • The Guardian

Mark Vanhoenacker flies for a living yet the shock of arriving somewhere new with different air, different sounds, different everything still manages to surprise him. ‘Place lag,’ as he calls it, is a wondrous thing.

Jet lag is part of my job as a long-haul airline pilot for British Airways. It’s something you can’t avoid but that you quickly learn to cope with: I recommend eating lighter meals, exercising – outdoors if possible – and going easy on the espresso.

But there’s another kind of lag that the speed and distance of a long-haul flight can induce; it’s a result of how seamlessly and completely an aeroplane transports you into the new world that’s waiting at your destination – into a whole realm of different smells, light, foods, views, words, vehicles, manners, street sign fonts and weather, into the universe of such details that make a place unique.

After a flight we walk out of the plane and then out of the terminal. I love that moment when the glass doors open and a gust of local air and sounds pour over you. We’re suddenly immersed. Yet even as we plunge into the different air, the different everything of a new place, we know that only a few hours ago we were just as perfectly immersed somewhere else. It takes time for one to wash off and another to sink in – more time than we spend on a plane, certainly, making in mere hours a journey that historically might have taken months, if it was possible at all.