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July 05, 2007

Child in the Sky

My dad's photograph of that unforgettable Air Haiti flight.

True, it's already pretty bad that the plane itself is practically falling apart. What makes it worse is that there's a foot high drop right in the middle of the Port-au-Prince runway. Will you take your chances?

Wait. Before you jump aboard, let me tell you more. Rules and regulations are a bit play-it-by-ear in Haiti. For example, during your flight, something like the following might just happen (let's picture it)...

Halfway from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republican, the oh-so-friendly pilot calls an 11 year old kid and his father up to the cockpit and asks the boy if he'd like to sit down in the co-pilot's chair. This 11 year old, being an airplane fanatic (and having logged countless hours on an early Macintosh edition of Microsoft's Flight Simulator) can hardly believe his shit blind luck! Oh, to gaze out at the oncoming landscape; to stare at the buttons, the knobs, the countless gauges! This is paradise! And so, our sensitive pilot, suddenly acting on impulse (and perhaps recognizing the love for the sky in this young lad) leans over and turns off automatic pilot.

In a gesture, he flips it off and asks the boy if he'd like to fly.

If it's not already obvious, this is a true story. The 11 year old boy was my younger brother, Ryan, who, without hesitation, took hold of that small wheely-thingy (or whatever the hell you call it in a plane) and piloted a plane full of Air Haiti passengers over the brown wastelands of Haiti for well over five minutes (even single-handedly piloting the turn past an oncoming cloud).

So... would you still like to take a ride on Air Haiti? Keep in mind, you may end up with an 11 year old pilot! But also remember, the passengers on that Air Haiti flight experienced nothing out of the ordinary that day. My brother, Ryan, was a more than adequate pilot and, at 11 years old, it's quite possible he'd logged more hours (via Microsoft simulator) than the pilot himself!

July 5, 2007 | Permalink


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Awesome story. Also quite impressive is that old C-46 Commando that Air Haiti acquired for it's airline. So, this was what? 20 years ago?

Posted by: BWJones | Jul 5, 2007 7:20:35 PM

This was about 22 years ago, sometime in 1984/85.

Posted by: Robyn | Jul 5, 2007 10:06:49 PM

That's HILARIOUS. I did something similar, but in an old Piper.

Why were you guys in Haiti? Vacation?

Posted by: Benjamin Jancewicz | Jul 6, 2007 8:19:23 AM

That's a great story. I was laughing by the foot-high drop in the runway part. Wouldn't happen to have a picture of THAT, would you? I'll take Air Haiti if they'll let me fly.

Posted by: Ren | Jul 6, 2007 2:13:17 PM

It's called a yoke.

I remember playing the flight simulator my dad had on his old IBM PC XT. I'm pretty sure I never once piloted that plane properly.

Posted by: Thomas J. Brown | Jul 8, 2007 5:35:17 PM

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