Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Flight To Venus.
We boarded an Aer Lingus 320 Airbus at Dublin airport bound for Paris. The aircraft seemed to be new, its interior imbuing a sense of freshness, as cheerful staff welcomed us, and guided us through the spacious cream-coloured interior decor to our plush seats, with ample room to stretch our legs and relax until we arrived at our destination. Thoughts of safety or security just did not arise, partly because Aer Lingus had such a terrific safety record over so many decades. This new adventure had such a mollifying benefit on reflections over previous experiences we had elsewhere, when packed into a claustrophobic aluminium cylinder with wings, fastened into bucket seats, we hung on for dear life for the whole journey.

By comparison, it is well to think of really brave men, back to that first navigator of the upper regions to outer space, Icarus, brave soul, who in order to escape from King Minos’ labyrinth in Crete, he donned a pair of wings fashioned by his father Daedalus, and flew off into the sky. Despite warnings to be careful and not to go too close to the Sun, Icarus, being young and adventurous paid no heed. He soared through the air like a bird with wonderful power. Taking advantage of the swirling currents of air he grew in such confidence that nothing now could stop him from landing on the Sun. He soared upwards, flapping his wings harder and harder, flying higher and higher until alas, the Sun melted the glue attaching his wings and poor Icarus fell a long, long way back into the sea.
Think too of another brave man, albeit ultimately unsuccessful, yet he was chief artist and mechanical scientist to Rasselas, the Prince of Abyssinia (a Utopian state, now Ethiopia), whose researches into flight had the sceptical support of Rasselas (‘there may be a danger of too quick a descent’), and whose theories on flight were not so different than those of Icarus. Having devised a pattern of wings similar to those of a Bat as being most suited to the human form, he pleaded successfully on his own condition that ‘I will try the first flight at my own hazard’. On the morning appointed, the artist/scientist appeared in full costume for the inaugural flight. From a high promontory he waved his wings to gather volume, and leaping from his stand on a high promontory, he launched himself into the air and fell straight into the lake below, ‘half dead with terror and vexation’.

We settled ourselves into the comfort and warmth of our spacious aircraft taking in all the wonders of science and technology, amazed at how the world had advanced in such a short time. An air hostess came to us, ensuring we were comfortable. We looked out the port window, surprised at how far below us the runway was, and that if you had to abandon and jump, you’d surely break a leg - poor brave Icarus of short duration. Within a short period of time the rest of the crew arrived on board when the absolutely unimaginable happened.
‘My name is Mary McCarthy. I am your Captain on this aircraft. The flight to Paris will take about two hours. I hope you all have a pleasant journey!…and she was smiling across at me!’
I felt just as Icarus and Rasselas felt, but in lots of different ways. We’re on the way to Venus in more ways than one; total burnout, and just one planet from the Sun
A woman, blonde, age about 26, attractive, 10 stone in weight and 5’6” tall, Captain of such this huge machine I was sitting in and about to take to the air and expecting to stay afloat up there travelling about 400 mph for two hours! A chick, driving a commercial aeroplane! I thought in that instant of the Eiffel Tower toppling into the Seine and Paris in a state of chaos.
I looked across at Bride, my wife, seeking a look of similar fears, but there were none. ‘It’s a woman pilot’ I said. ‘Yes’, she smiled, ‘Isn’t it great!’ I felt sick.
‘Fasten your seat belts, we are ready for take-off’. It was the young woman Captain again. The engines screamed as the plane raced down the tarmac, then with a slight jolt we were airborn. Speeding upwards at a forty five degree angle at two hundred miles an hour, and as this was the most critical part of any adventure like this I wondered if she could hold the joystick in place considering the pressures involved. The knuckles on my hands were now white-boned with tension as they held the seat arms. ‘Look’, my wife beckoned, ‘out the window, see how small Dublin looks from this height’. Like Rassels scientist, I feared the thought of back-tracking along the same angular course we had scaled, silently urging the lady Captain to level out, so that I might live again.
Soon all was calm and I could look out the window, but not down, to see if any other planes or missing Amelia Erharts were close to us; but I suppose as most male drivers tend to stay clear of errant females in charge of even a tractor, most male fliers know their onions too. It’s when they all come back to earth and relate stories of near misses and sightings of flying saucers in the upper regions that the trouble really starts.
Crossing the English Channel, Bride pointed to a trawler in the sea, while at that same time I asked the air hostess to find out at what speed and height we were travelling. When we were told 525 mph at 37,500 feet, Bride’s trawler became an ocean liner as much as our plane was but a cigar to those below us.
As we approached the coast of France, we realised how pleasant the flight had been, how smooth and relaxing, and I thought greatfully of our lady Captain, but still had reservations about Paris, when lo! and behold we flew into a snow shower, and then as we descended through snow clouds, the Captain informed us that we would be landing ‘by wire’.
Charles De Gaulle Airport is very big, very expansive and a very busy place. It was not until we reached close to 100 feet that we could see the ground was covered in snow, and too late to abandon the landing.
Whatever about my initial reservations on female pilots and on Captain Mary McCarthy’s ability to control a large commercial aircraft, she brought that plane down as softly as a Dove might land on your pillow; and by the time we travelled the approximate five kilometres to the terminal building in the plane, the excitement of being in Paris was made all the more glorious. If ever I meet Captain McCarthy again, I will give her one great big hug.
Michael Ward.

Congratulations to Johnny Murphy (LJ) this year’s President.

Fund Raisers..
The annual quiz took place on the 26th February in Paddy’s. There was a nice crowed there, all eager to win the quiz, a spot prize, or something! Tom O’Rourke was quizmaster and delivered a wide range of questions with great humour and know how. The quiz was very competitive – definitely no trading answers..... But trying was fun though. Congrats to the winners; Brendan Daly, Colin Daly and Denis Mahon.

The auction generated a nice few bob and for this a very sincere thanks to all who either sponsored auction items or bought them.

Quiz Master Tom O’Rourke

Next up is Long Johnny’s Classic Golf Outing. There is nothing surer – it is classic. LJ’s Couglanstown is a good day out; golf, soup ‘n rolls and a local social event, with proceeds going to both the Golf Society and Ballymore Senior Citizens, so please support.

The date for this outing has been moved out to 27th and 28th of March. The format has changed slightly in that it will be a shot gun start at 8:30 and 12:30pm. The entry sheet will be up in Paddy’s shortly. All Welcome!

Next Outing 10 April Lutrellstown Castle.

Maureen Doyle Memorial Cup
This year’s outing is being organised by Poulaphuca Golf Society. Timesheets will be up in both Poulaphuca and Paddy’s. The date for your diary is 24th April, Boystown Golf Club. Maureen was very involved in Boystown Golf Club which makes it a very appropriate venue to honour her memory.

Annual Subs
Ita McCarron, Treasurer, is currently collecting annual subscriptions.

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