Subject: 5 set out for Gatwick on Wednesday to catch the Virgin flight VS041 to San Francisco...
From: Alex Kemp
Date: Wednesday, 29 August 2001 00:00:00 +0000
To: All

Note before: This is an old “Diary Entry” from the Modem-Help site, re-jigged into the etmg format. The original site is now long gone.

We were the last people to board - flight crew consulting their watches, tapping their feet & speaking on walkie-talkies; excellent! - to find the afternoon flight only one third full. This worried the living daylights out of me, as I had read that fatal public journeys always contained less passengers than would normally be expected...

The 10-hour flight followed a Great Circle over Greenland and Canada and, in spite of travelling from the afternoon through midnight to the following afternoon, was conducted under the rays of the Sun throughout. Don't even try to work it out, it's not worth it.

It was marvellous to see land (if only from a mile up) that the dirty fingers of man had not interfered with. Britain, of course, has been almost entirely changed throughout it's length, but it was a shock to find that America seems to be the same. Greenland, and the parts of Canada that we saw, were not. Nor the sea. There surely needs to be some places for the wildness of the spirit & soul to run free.

A sea-mist was pouring in from the Pacific and attempting to engulf San Francisco, but being burnt off by the sun. It was also Daniel & Becky's first trip to America, and we were excited to see our first security guard wearing a gun. He was 5 foot nothing tall, and the gun looked enormous on his hip. Before that a trying-to-be-patient lady had enquired whether we had been on a farm before flying, or whether we had had contact with foot and mouth. What would they have done if we had said yes?

Postscript Feb 2016:
I forgot at the time to mention an extraordinary incident during the flight... The aeroplane was a Jumbo-Jet (747), and they are simply enormous: 231 ft (70.6m) long, 200 ft (60m) wingspan & 63 ft (19m) at the tail. Whilst flying across America, the pilot came on the intercom & said that there were some interesting things to see on the ground, and asked us to put our seat-belts on. He then rolled that enormous beast of a plane first onto one side (almost 90°, with the wings towards the vertical), and then after a few minutes 180° on to the other side, so that passengers on both sides of the plane could get a good look at the ground. It was only much, much later that I thought what a very strange thing that was to do, and what a pilot’s compliment to his craft it was.

Alex Kemp