By Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani
November, 2002

In case you're not old enough to remember....
A long time ago there was an airline slogan that read "Fly the friendly skies..." That was when flying WAS friendly, even sweet. Cockpit doors were often open. Passengers, especially excited children, were invited into the cockpit to meet the pilot, co-pilot and navigator and watch and learn how the plane is controlled. I remember when I got to sit with the pilot on some flights during the co-pilots' break and ask questions like, "What does this button do?"

Kids got their own set of pilot wings to pin on their clothes, and some even got a toy model plane to take with them. If your child needed to fly somewhere on their own, you were assured they would be safe. By the end of a flight, many passengers knew the crew by their first names and felt right at home.

Those were the days when candy and Chicklets gum was passed around by the smiling stewardesses with gloved hands before the take-off. The plane even SMELLED good. Everything extra didn't cost extra. The food was good. Everything was clean, posh. Even if you weren't in first class, you had first class treatment. Stress wasn't known because flying was to be a time of R & R and good treatment for paying passengers. We felt that no matter what happened, the crew could handle it. It was a comfort and a joy to fly back then.

Although I was on one of the first planes that had a bomb on it, back in 1971 (thanks, again to the Arabs), that experience was a rarity in those times. How things have changed. There was no such thing as terrorism in the old days. Few crazies were out to hijack a plane, and there were no terrorists trying to blow up planes, or fly planes into buildings, intent upon committing suicide and murdering everyone on board. These things just didn't exist. It was a beautiful, trusting, innocent time.

How can anyone feel they're flying the friendly skies today? Those times are over and I find it hard to bid them good-bye. It is with some bitterness that I write this brief piece. Bitterness at a people who sought to destroy our lives in every possible way. To take out the joy, the comfort, safety, innocence in the most selfish, unfeeling way it could be done. It was done without our permission, without our consent, by people who never had the pleasure of knowing what it used to be like in the friendly skies. They didn't care, anyway.

Today we have to consider ourselves lucky to reach our destination alive and unviolated by inept security searches. We have to be grateful to land and try not to think about all of the stress, the extra time the trip took because of safety measures to prevent a terrorist attack.

When luxury used to be commonplace on flights, today's flights are like being on a bus - cattle being shuttled quickly from point A to point B, no freebies, no perks, bells or whistles, at least in domestic flights. Some airlines don't even serve food anymore, so you have to bring your own or wait until you get to a stop where you can eat.

Today cockpits are sealed, no one is allowed in. Kids can't see first-hand how a plane is flown, or get to meet the whole crew. Today people have to worry who might be on their plane.

Taking family or friends or business associates to the airport have become a nightmare of heavy traffic and blocked access to the entrances. Non-passengers can no longer wait at the indoor terminal gates with their friends or family before a flight. Everyone has to wait downstairs all crowded together, or not at all. Police at the curb yell and threaten anyone who doesn't keep their car moving. It's become a nasty affair and only contributes to pressure.

True, I'm nostalgic, I really miss the friendly skies. I wonder if they'll ever return? *Sigh*.

© Copyright 2002, Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani