Touch And Go

Watch the video and then read on.
Much like the airplane above, an airliner I was riding in Nov. 8 attempted to land at Tampa International Airport and touched down on the back wheels, before the pilot aborted the landing and took off again.
The maneuver is called a touch and go. I had seen U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy pilots perform the exercise during airshows, but I had no idea a commercial jet could do the same.
Tropical Storm Ida was in the Gulf of Mexico, kicking up winds and making it quite difficult for airplanes to land. Inside the cabin, I was in front section of the plane sandwiched between a husband who favored the aisle and his wife who preferred the window seat.
The plane tilted back and forth as we approached the runway. I was not worried. I had been on a flight more than 10 years earlier that experienced much worse turbulence during the landing and had been just fine. This time, though, the nose didn’t come down. There was a jolt and suddenly we were airborne again.
The woman seated next to me grabbed my arm, and I clutched her husband’s leg.
As the plane circled the airport, I tried to make sense of what had happened, and the woman next to me criticized the pilot.
“He has an accent,” she said. “Our pilots were trained in the Air Force and Navy, and they know how to fly a plane.”
“Hispanic,” her husband replied.
I scrambled to offer a coherent response that would not lead to a fight on the plane that had just aborted a landing and was being flown by a pilot who sounded Hispanic.
When someone spouts such nonsense, I always tell people to say something, anything in response, or the person who just uttered the xenophobic remark will think you agree with her.
In the most nonjudgmental tone I could find, I said: “Well, you know, he may have been trained in the Air Force or the Navy.”
The woman didn’t say a word. Her husband, though, agreed with me.
Maybe she will think before she speaks next time. Maybe.

  • First, that video was terrifying. Second, I think your advice to say something, anything, in response to ignorant and racist remarks is excellent.

  • Oh Lord have mercy. Has she never met an American with a Spanish accent? One of my dad’s best friends in the Air Force was Guadalupe Vega, who grew up in the Valley in South Texas and whose first language was Spanish. Guadalupe was a pilot.

    Neither of my grandmothers spoke English as a first language, but they were born in this country.

    And for what it’s worth, you can know how to fly a plane in a language other than English.

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