The Beast - The Joy Of Flight


I have begun writing this at some twenty odd thousand feet above sea level on my way to Dublin for the Punchestown Festival. Looking out of the plane window I can see the island of Anglesey with the peaks of Snowdonia in the distance.

Even now, some 30 years after my first flight, I am still enthralled by the views from the cabin window and I still have a mega sulk if I don’t end up with a window seat.

I think this stems from my first ever flight, which was with the now defunct Pan-Am from London to San Francisco. I was on my own, off to do the West Coast triangle of San Francisco, Vegas and LA and, yes, I was scared as it was my first time in the air. Seeing the 747 did not help either, I was thinking “how the hell can that get off the ground?”

Come take off it was eyes firmly shut, clench the seat rest so hard my fingers went numb and hope for the best. After a while the plane was in the air and I was still alive. I opened my eyes, managed to release my grip on the armrests and I ventured to take a peek out of the window. There below me, in all its glory was Windsor Castle and I thought “wow – this ain’t bad” and so begun a lifelong love affair with window seats on planes.

Anyway I digress slightly, although there is a connection.

All those years ago flying was something special, usually it was every couple of years one got to fly – 1981 was very decadent for me – I actually flew three times. Shock horror, that almost made me an international jetsetter in the eyes of my friends.

Nowadays flying is much more commonplace, thanks to the low cost airline model. Begun in the USA by Southwest then copied over here, initially by Easy Jet and latterly Ryanair, plus many smaller airlines that have come and gone.

It is a cliché that in the US catching a plane is as commonplace as catching a bus. The same is happening here now. Indeed thinking about it I have been on many more planes than busses in the last year.

For going racing it has certainly made life easier. Last week I was able to “commute” to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National meeting, this week it is Punchestown.

Previously it would have been grand planning - planning long drives or ferry crossings, not to say having to arrange hotels. Now I can fly there and back each day, sleep in my own bed and, more importantly, save money as the flights can be booked for a great deal less than the cost of a hotel.

I'm off to Navan in September - total cost of flights - £2.42 - how can Ryanair stay in business?

With online check-in you do not have to arrive at the airport until about 45 mins before the flight is due to take off, plus you can work whilst waiting at the airport or when in the air. Something that cannot be done when driving, so time use is more productive.  

OK it is not green, however my view is if I did not fly the flights would sill go. They are popular. The flight to Dublin today has 102 passengers. The flights to Ayr were all virtually full, indeed the flight up on Friday was full. So people are taking advantage of what is on offer.

For me it is great, it means I can cover more meetings. Yes it can be very tiring and the days can be long – but I’m all in favour of these cheap flights. The more the better.   


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