Planes and those who fly them

Ships and planes, ferryboats and flying machines, as my departed father used to call them. The two omnipresent dreams of my childhood and youth in Bursa’s Sırameşeler quarter in the 50s and 60s.

Unfortunately I could not easily fulfill those two longings, which I still remember so vividly even today. My sole consolation was to see in the distance the Dakotas taking off and landing at the airport several kilometers away on my long walks along the Canal. And what a lovely sound the engines of those legendary craft of the propeller era made as they beat the human heart with their song. And in their wake, the days of the ‘pajama-striped’ F-27s, as sleek as pheasants, with their octave-higher whine.
Indeed, nothing could describe my joy at discovering my beloved planes and ships in the Istanbul where I arrived in 1969 for medical school. Not only that but I was savoring the pleasure of ships on my trips back and forth from Bursa, and could never get my fill of watching the planes at Atatürk Airport (Yeşilköy as it was called in those days) on weekends. I remember as if it were yesterday standing transfixed by the splendor of the DC-9s, the first jets to join the Turkish Airlines fleet.
Such serendipity, such miracles did this passion of mine inspire that my connection with Turkish Airlines, which commenced during my student days, was eventually transformed into a 37-year-long institutional friendship. Due to my position with the Eczacıbaşı Pharmaceutical Group for close to a quarter-century, I became one of Turkish Airlines’ most senior passengers and was even awarded the title of ‘Passenger of the Year’ in 1989.
Looking back at my notes, I see that I have flown a total of 1284 times up to now. And I have entered in my flight log exactly where I went, on which date, and with which plane and which pilot, right down to the smallest detail. I have even carefully saved all my tickets and boarding passes without exception (while electronic tickets are a great convenience, it was actually more fun to save the stubs of the old coupon-type ones). Thanks to my training in medicine, I noticed incredible similarities between human anatomy and physiology and the body structure and operating principles of the airplane. Seeing that the plane’s body to a large extent corresponded to the human skeletal-muscular system, its hydraulic system to the human circulatory system, and its electronic equipment to the human nervous system enhanced my admiration for this technological wonder even further. But despite my passion for airplanes, which has not dimmed for half a century now, I never once thought of becoming a pilot; clearly I preferred to get my flying pleasure the easy way. Thanks to the time airplanes save us, I love them even more and am bowled over by this miraculous machine that enables man to realize one of his oldest dreams, that of ‘flying’. I am sure that the primary responsibility felt by our captains and cabin crews is to fly us safely to wherever we are going. I am well aware that for safety a captain may choose to make a hard landing in rainy and windy weather, and that, equipped with a spare back-up for each control system, air travel is by far safer than other forms of transportation.
As a seasoned passenger, I can say that the quintessential points of a comfortable and happy flight are making an early reservation, carefully examining your ticket, getting to the airport early, keeping your seatbelt fastened at all times, heeding all the announcements, and eating little and reading a lot.
I hope that ‘airplanes and those who fly them’, as some of my best and closest friends for half a century now, will bring pleasure, safety and security to your life as well.