Learning to Fly

Laks Vajjhala
4 min readJun 19, 2020

There’s no sensation compared to this…..

-Pink Floyd

An A-380 — A marvelous piece of engineering and beauty!

First time is the Best time

Unlike most people perhaps, I can very distinctly remember my first time. I was Twenty-two years old. Not too young, not too old. I was nervous but also tremendously excited. I had heard about how it actually feels like from friends who had done it before but nothing ever comes close to having the actual experience.

I am talking about flying. More specifically Air-travel. Something, given the current situation seems like a thing of the past.

It may seem odd but I was twenty-two years old when I first boarded an airplane. Until then, land transport was the only transport I knew. Even long distances of thousands of kilometres were covered through trains. These journeys, mostly from the South of India to the North where I used to trek in the Himalayas used to take days.

The longest I spent on a train was about three days and two nights. Sounds like a cruise, in a way it was indeed. I have many stories to tell about that epic journey but now it is about flying.

So, this flight was from the city of Bangalore to New Delhi, the capital of India. A distance of over two-thousand kilometres. I had made this trip several times over the decades by train and I had a reference point in terms of what two-thousand kilometres actually meant.

In contrast, the flight would take about two and a half hours. For me it was nothing short of magic.

Firsts among firsts

Like all big first experiences there are firsts hidden within firsts. My first air-travel was also the first time I ever visited an Airport. It was the first time I saw air-hostesses in real life (Air Hostesses are CUTE!). The list just goes on.

I rejoiced in every first experience, it was nothing short of spiritual to see the city in which I grew up for Twenty-two years from the sky. This experience left a last impression that remains fresh to this day.

I love to fly

I have an unusual fondness to fly. I love every aspect of it. There is literally nothing about it that I can think of that I hate.

Food is Good

The first thing people complain about air-travel is the airline food. I beg to differ. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to travel through multiple countries of the world and hence had the opportunity to fly several national carriers.

Through these, I was able to experience the diversity of the food that is on offer. I can only count only one or two experiences in middle-eastern airlines that I have had a bad experience.

Airports are cultural symbols — mostly

Airports are treated as symbols by most countries except in North America I think. In most of Asia especially, airports are works of art. They are an expression of the architectural achievements of that country. The New Delhi International Airport, Bangalore, Bangkok, Beijing all have distinct architectures and personas that are an experience to just be in.

In addition to the architecture, Airports are excellent venues for shopping, trying out food from that region and most importantly just people watching. I always ponder from a distance ‘do the people of this region believe in queues?’

Geographical Surveying?

One other thing that I really like about flying is that it combines very well with my passion for geography. I feel like an aerial version of George Everest or Arthur Cotton surveying the planet. Even the multi-level cloud patterns are interesting. It was only through flying that I could appreciate the size of clouds. Spoiler Alert : They are massive!

Aerospace Quality Standards

I think in manufacturing quality control, the Aerospace industry has the highest standards for performance and quality. This is something that brings me joy. A million parts have to work in harmony to enable the miracle of flight!

The sheer physics of the Jet engine and the manufacturing excellence that goes into the titanium or carbon fibre turbine blades is awe inspiring.

In this regard, I may be a bit of an Otaku, a little over the top obsessed with Jet engines for some reason. I felt sad at the announcement of stopping the A-380 production.


I don’t like to watch all the latest movies that hit the theater. Cost is the major reason, the other reason is the overhead costs of time and effort. A two hour movie requires at least four hours of total cost of experience. I reserve theater visits to unmissable classics like the Joker!

In a long distance plane travel the overhead time is almost zero for watching movies! I binge watch three to four movies at a stretch. I am usually surprised how up-to-date the list of movies are and more importantly how broad and international the selection is.

It is all about the possibilities

I think, more than anything, the reason that I love flying is the fact that it gives me the opportunity to escape into another world in a matter of hours. I feel like airports are these magical hallways with gates (pun intended) that open to myriad far-off worlds. And Airplanes are these magical flying machines that can take me there.

How else can you make sense of having Tonga, Maldives, Easter Island and Korea on a bucket list of places to visit in one lifetime. Scratch that. In one year!

Exceptional times

It may sound selfish but one of my fears about the current pandemic situation is the inability to fly in the short term and the loss of Air-travel infrastructure in the long term.

If the frequency and affordability of air-travel becomes lower then there would be fewer opportunities to travel. Fewer opportunities for those serendipitous human interactions. Fewer opportunities to see more of our home — Planet Earth.

Fly Soon. Fly Safe.