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  • The Flight to Hong Kong

    It's minus 63 degrees outside. We are flying into a 110 MPH head wind, which probably explains why it takes almost 15 hours to get to Hong Kong, I try not to think about the thin wall of composite separating me from the subzero air.

    My seat is angled to face the windows. I can see through three of them. Through the left window I see a massive engine. It doesn't appear to have any moving parts, yet I know the fan blades are creating the thrust to keep this can of 350 people at 38,000 feet.

    The engine hangs forward of the wing. I'm not sure how it's fastened. It doesn't look as if anything much it holding it in place. There is only one engine on this side. What if the engine on the other side stops? Could we fly on just this one? I suspect so, but it would take some precise piloting to control the lopsided thrust.

    A flight attendant brings me a cognac—Hine "Rare and Delicate." The quotes are theirs, not mine. I don't know much about cognac, but I do know this one is smooth and tasty. Cognac service signals cabin sunset. The lights dim as passengers pull out comforters and convert their upright seats to the bed position. I, too, settle into slumber.

    Flying always brings an uneasy sleep, even in a bed. I notice when the background noise of the jets change. At times they purr. At times they roar. The seatbelt sign comes and goes with the changes. But even the turbulent times on this flight are smoother than driving down the 101 in the Bay Area. And fortunately there isn't any side-to-side rolling, like on that trip across the Drake Passage on the Polar Star.

    I put my nose on one of the windows to get a glimpse of the sky. I can't connect the dots into any familiar shape. If only the plane had an observation bubble I might be able to get my bearings. We are over Japan now. Maybe I'd never get my bearings at this latitude and longitude.

    After dinner, a six-hour sleep, a movie (Another Earth), reading, and a long conversation with Glen, the trip info screen shows another three and a half hours to go. The images from the belly-side camera are black. Will the sun rise before we get to Hong Kong? Will we ever get to Hong Kong? It's a long flight. Hong Kong isn't even my final destination. It's the transfer point for Ho Chi Minh City.