In his Summer 2023 column, editor-in-chief Mitchell Scott asks what’s so fly about flight when you’re “jammed into 350,000 kilograms of projectile”? 

I used to travel on planes a lot. Today, not so much. This past winter, though, I went for a doozy. Halfway around the planet, past datelines, casually sending it over the biggest ocean in the world, no big deal. But I realized quite quickly, though, how accustomed I had become to the whole process. It’s hard not to take air travel for granted. For hundreds of millions of human beings around the globe, it’s practically our birthright. We expect to be delivered with relative ease, on time, and at reasonable rates. And if we aren’t, we’ve been egregiously wronged.

But let’s be real here, air travel is not normal. First, there’s the tweak of spatial movement. Take off in San Francisco and land in Sapporo. This is a serious detour for a species who’s logged 99.9 per cent of its existence on an improbably giant world travelling by foot. On a plane, that size evaporates like contrails on a clear day. Sure, we might battle overweight luggage, shuffling socks and undies from one bag to the other while fellow travellers scowl with disdain. And yeah, we could get stranded in Gander for a week. But you can leave a mountain town anywhere in the world and, with planes at your disposal, be in another mountain town on the other side of the planet within a day or three. Bizarre is an understatement. But that’s not the stupid part.

How we became so wonderfully relaxed in these giant flying tubes of near inferno baffles me. In just a few generations, we’ve become living-room chill to the experience, despite being jammed into 350,000 kilograms of projectile along with 400 other people and 180,000 litres of high-octane jet fuel. There we are, 11,000 metres above sea level, bouncing around in the jet stream, shoes off, neck pillows on, binging Bollywood classics, red wine, white wine, ginger ales, foil-wrapped stroganoff, and plastic-encased buns. We recline, converse, read, watch, even sleep. Never a better time to pop a doxepin, don noise-cancelling headphones, and snore than when barrelling 950 kilometres an hour over oceans and continents to who knows where. Hopefully on points.

By hour six of my flight, I had succumbed to my fate: I will reach my destination or die by impact. Let’s face it, once you step off the gangplank (that’s actually what it’s called) and onto the plane, you have no choice. But, after a couple of years of keeping my feet firmly planted on the planet, those jarring few minutes after take-off—when I’m sweating profusely with worst-case scenarios jumbling through my head like so many safety announcements—I couldn’t stop thinking, modern humans are nuts.