Sunday, 31 March 2013


I share this fascination for the bird in the sky, along with many other things with my late mother. Once when I was just a kid, I remember the plane arriving in Yeramaras near Raichur. It was, I vaguely remember, to facilitate the visit of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to Raichur. I ran along with my mother and her friends to the temporary make shift aerodrome and was awestruck by the sheer beauty and the magnificence of the steel bird.Though we were not allowed to get in, I think the elders  managed to have a dekko at the inside.

Vroom!!! That sound and the sight of the airplane blazing through the blue sky never ceases to fascinate me. Having born and brought up in small town Raichur,sighting the airplane was always a rarity. Hyderabad Karnataka area has remained the same even after decades with inadequate infrastructure and inclement weather.

The North Karnataka districts always had the misfortune of being neglected parts of the state. But not entire north Karnataka  Just the way South India means Madras and South Indians Madrasis to the “Northies”, all the districts of the north are referred to as backward areas. But among them, Belgaum has the fortune of being the pie of the eye, thanks to Thakre and their ilk. Gulbarga again is positioned better, thanks to its proximity to Sholapur in Maharashtra. I feel the most neglected among the lot are Raichur, Bidar and Bijapur districts in spite of Kharge and Dharam Singh, Byadagi menasinakai and Ilakal and molakalmooru sarees.

Post marriage I arrived in Bangalore and the South Bangalore being in the closer proximity of the airport, I could always hear the big roar and have a clear vision,sighting some of the parts of the plane and its lights. The city folk,used to the sight of the planes flying overhead all the time and also being prim and proper, never bothered to look up where as I had to try very  hard to control the urge to look up and stare, standing in the middle of the road. But I found an alibi once my children were born. I would stand in the road, looking up and pointing my finger to the sky and devour that awful sight. Most of the time my children would join the fun but I was generally excused for standing in the middle of the road and staring,with people around passing me with an indulgent smile on their face at the naive mother and the children.  

Though we may thank Capt. Gopinath for opening up the skies to the Indian middle class, he has to share the blame for turning the high and elite Indian airports into luxury Bus stops. When I first flew to Mumbai, the treatment meted out was no less than the one reserved for her highness, with hot wet towel being offered to wipe at the start of the journey, followed by loads of snacks, chocolates and beverages. We used to be indulgently pampered with  music and magazines throughout the journey of two hours. But now, the flight charges may have depleted, but the shops at the airport are making a killing, charging as they please. Imagine, the poor man's hatti coffee, available elsewhere for just five bucks is charged fifty five rupees at the airport. Mind it, once you check you may have to cough up a whopping seventy rupees for the same tiny cup. Choice is yours!

And then there was Mr. Moneybag's – not anymore? - Mallya's Kingfisher , the embodiment of Good Life. Not just the glossy inside and the beverages  the King of Good Times offered his customers splendid TV screens with different channels,flashy earplugs and fine seats but also the best looking air hostesses, what with the poor ( pun intended ) guy and his son spending most part of their lives selecting the calender girls and making them air hostesses in their airlines.

I have a secret lingering doubt at the sheepish grin on my hubby's face when we had booked the tickets to Delhi on King Fisher. His explanation that we should have an experience of all the airlines in the market had not cut much ice with me. Neither then nor now.  But I was more than compensated by the pleasure of having two screens in the monitor that offered the pilot's view from the cockpit and also the map of the exact location on the ground we were covering. I was totally engrossed in the screen view and let my hubby have his little fun.  In between was the company of the passengers who provided some free humor trying to put on and breaking those huge ear plugs and trying to hide their embarrassment!

But nowadays, any Tom Dick and Harry can rub shoulders with the Amitabhs, khans and the kapoors of the world and even grannies wearing nine yard sarees walking nonchalantly through the flight with a feel and look of having seen it all. But has any of this familiarity doused my curiosity? No sir, sorry. On the contrary, it has fueled the passion. Since childhood Maths and English and subsequently Computers have been my favorite subjects. But now I have a deep sense of regret for not having gone for the science subjects like physics and mechanics. ( By the way when I expressed this feeling to my son, he suggested that I can go for the study of “ Physics for the Dummies”. Hope I will learn at least some of the basic elements before long and avoid being referred to by that word! )

But before that I decided to study how a plane fly. I Googled and found the NASA website. I read, re-read and re-read. It was just Greek and Latin. Lack of the knowledge of Physics made the words just twirl around my head. It challenged me all the more. I again started poring over the books and ultimately got a reasonably good understanding of the basics. There may be at least some persons like me who share my curiosity about these flying machines. So here it is : HOW DO THE AIRPLANES FLY? 


The four forces that are used for a plan to fly are lift ( to force the plane upwards), weight gravity ( which acts as a downward force), thrust ( that force the flight forward) and drag ( the air resistance or the backward acting force). These four forces in tandem help an airplane to fly.

Gravity opposes lift, thrust opposes drag. When an aircraft takes off, its thrust and lift must be sufficient to overcome the aircraft's weight and drag.While flying at constant speed, thrust equals drag and lift equals the pull of gravity. On the contrary, while landing, an aircraft's thrust must be reduced safely below its drag, as its lift is reduced to levels less than its weight.

First thing to be understood is  that air, like water is fluid and a lift can be generated only when the fluid is in motion. Either the wing should be moving or the air around it. Most of the time the wing does the moving even though
the air too would be moving to some extent.  

The wings of the airplane have a special shape : the upper surfaces are curved and the lower surfaces are flat. This shape works along with the fluid motion of the air to create a lift. When the air moves around the wings, it goes both on the top and the bottom area of the wings. When the air goes over the upper curved surface, its pressure is reduced by the centrifugal force of the air that flows across the curved upper surface, and it is accelerated downwards  The wing will be pushed into a region of reduced air pressure above the upper surface because of the higher air pressure beneath the wing. Further the downward acceleration of the air at the edge helps the wings to lift upward.

What is flight turbulence and Why does it occur?

The first time I felt the turbulence, I was scared to my wit's end. Of course by travelling in Raichur district, I had mastered the art of travelling over worst pot holes. It required the highest level of the skills by the drivers to drive on the narrow side of the road as the road always used to be non-existent with big pot holes taking its place.But at least we knew what was happening by peeping out of the window.

But here the plane was shuddering,making unhealthy sounds, and at times suddenly climbing down thousands of feet. Peeping out of the wind further scaring the hell out of me,I started calling the names of all the Gods I could remember to rescue me.

And to make the matters worse, the pilot gave a warning about the situation and promised his sincere efforts to fly us safely. And we were reminded about those safety steps we were supposed to take in case of an emergency. Aw common! When one will be dropping down tens of thousands of feet in seconds, how can one remember to take care and pull out the safety jacket in case the flight rushes to a sea! Common Mr.Pilot, I may not know how to fly a plane but have common sense to realize when the danger stares me in the face.Anyway thanks for the false feel good reassurance tactics.I would rather they stop making those announcements before the journey. It makes one all the more nervous.

And again What are the Turbulence and Why do they occur?

There are three types of turbulence : Turbulence during storms, Turbulence over mountains and the unexpected Turbulence.

During bad weathers and thunder storms, strong ups and downs in the heart of the storm can shove the airplane up to 6000 feet up or down. "You can't go through them, you've got to go around them." Bendall says of thunderstorms. "That's just the rules of the road." Luckily, weather forecasts, radars and the ground reports help the pilots steer clear of  bad weather.

While flying over the mountain ranges, the air over the mountain forms waves that create a turbulence just the way sea waves can upset a submarine. These may be called mountain waves which the pilots generally anticipate while flying over the mountains.

The most insidious kind of turbulence, clear-air turbulence, is invisible, comes without warning and occurs any time during a flight. One of the main culprits of clear-air turbulence is the boundary between the jet stream—that aerial river that forms where arctic air masses meet warmer air from the south—and the slower-moving air adjacent to it. This invisible boundary shifts unpredictably, and shakes an unstrapped passenger in a jet that crosses it.  If an aircraft has passed through the area ahead of your airplane, your pilot might get an advance warning of turbulence ahead. "But if you're an early morning flight and you're going through an area first, you're going to be 'Probe One.'"

All said and done, flying is a symbol of man's supremacy over science, nature and knowledge. Salute it and cherish it. Happy flying!!!