Prop Planes and thunderstorms: ‘I thought for sure I was going to die’

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On my way back from Minnesota last week I had a three-hour layover in Philadelphia. I then boarded a prop plane to Washington DC. Propeller planes are small. My backpack would not fit in the overhead bin so I had to put it under the seat in front of me. This meant I had nowhere to put my purse. My purse ended up in the overhead bin. I was glad this was a short flight.


The last time I was on a prop plane was 21 year ago on my first trip to Moscow. I was going for a couple of weeks and was carrying gifts so I had two very large suitcases. The airline informed me that they would not fit on the plan and they had to follow me on another plane. I worried the whole way they would get lost. Amazingly enough they showed up right on time.

Small planes usually terrify me. I was in a private four seater once in Texas going through a thunderstorm where I thought for sure I was going to die. Prop planes always reminds me of a story my father tells about a trip in India. We were dropping my brothers off at boarding school on our way back to Burma.

“On July 20th, 1957, we flew from Bombay (Mumbai) to Madras (Chennai) on India Airlines. We rested in the Oceanic Hotel in Madras for a few hours before taking the evening train to Kodai Station. We had a nice compartment in a First Class air-conditioned car and had excellent service on the train. We arrived at Kodai Stain at 6:30 the next morning and caught an old bus for the three-hour ride up the mountain. It was a thrilling ride with plenty of hairpin curves.

Road up the mountain
Road up the mountain

At Kodaikanal we registered Tim and Tom in boarding school. The school buildings and facilities were good and the setting was beautiful. On July 22 we said our good byes and boarded the bus that took us down the mountain and to the overnight train to Madras. We went to the Conemara Hotel, had breakfast and rested a few hours before taking the plane to Calcutta (Kolkata).

As we approached Calcutta, we flew through a horrible thunderstorm. The plane ride was very rough and I became airsick. This was before the days of any fancy air navigations systems and since the pilot could not see much he followed the railroad tracks to find an airport. We almost kissed the ground when we left the plane, for we thought we would never make it.”

The next day we boarded another plane for Rangoon and then the train to Pyminia on the 24th. I was 11-months-old and it was the end of four months of traveling around the world.

Luckily my trip last week was much better. It was a clear night and since prop planes fly at lower altitudes I could see much of what was on the ground. I saw some boats and lots of city lights but don’t remember seeing any railroad tracks.



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