On this day in 2003, I boarded a non-stop American Eagle flight out of Montgomery Regional Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in North Texas. I was to start my journey in the U.S. Air Force with basic military training. Not only was it my 1st time going to Texas, it was also my 1st non-stop flight. While memorable in its own right, it wasn’t as memorable as my very 1st flight overall. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the 1st flight.
How I first came across this moment? Triumphs & Tribulations II tells this story well. I had scheduled a campus visit to the University of Oregon, which was to take place on August 30, 2002—a Friday. In addition to getting familiar with the campus in Eugene, I was going to attend some of the tailgate stuff for the Oregon-Mississippi State game with my host and leave out the following Monday, which was Labor Day. I booked a flight with Northwest Airlines that was going to take me from Birmingham to Detroit to Portland, where I’d take the bus down to Eugene. My then-girlfriend drove me to Birmingham International Airport on August 29 and I was on my first flight—a Northwest Airlines Airbus A319—a short while later, en route to Detroit Metro Airport.
What it meant to me then? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous that 1st flight. It was pretty much a year after the September 11th attacks and air travel was still very edgy. The Northwest flight attendant—she went by Janice—was very pleasant. Once she figured out it was my first flight, she gave me a “first timer incentive” in the form of an extra bag of potato chips. The passenger seated next to me was pretty cool. He was a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. We conversed about what I should expect in a college visit and about flying in general. It was a pretty easygoing experience…except for the takeoff and landing, which sent my stomach into a haywire frenzy.
What it means to me now? It’s been nearly 14 years and I’ve been on a couple hundred flights since that 1st one late in the Summer of 2002. Northwest Airlines ceased operations 6 ½ years ago when they merged with Delta. No more BHM-DTW-PDX flights for me. That 1st flight though…it was a landmark experience for me and I’ve never really forgotten any detail of it.