As the 747 taxied out on the tarmac I could feel the friction of the tires seemingly grinding on the blacktop. It was a somewhat unsettling feeling for me. I had never been on an airplane before. When the plane turned onto the concrete runway the tires didn't make so much noise and it was sort-of soothing.
Then we stopped --- and we sat there, and sat there. From my vantage point I couldn't see any reason for the delay, but I assumed another plane or two or three were taking off ahead of us. I don't know why but I started getting nervous. I guess you would call it impatient.
There was no need to be in a hurry, we were going halfway around the world. To Bombay, (Mumbai) India.
When the plane started moving again it brought a strange combination of relief and worry. As I took my wife's hand and said a short prayer, the pilot kicked the big bird into high gear, forcing us against the back of our seats, and soon I felt the front wheels come off the ground, and then the back wheels lifted and we were air-born.
I was suddenly in the grip of mixed emotions. It was fascinating watching the earth sink away beneath the plane. I had never sensed anything like this before! But I also became aware I was no longer in touch with terra firma. This was unsettling for me. I had this strange feeling there was nothing between me and the wide open sky but a thin piece of aluminum. I instinctively lifted my feet so I wouldn't push a hole in the floor. I know that will seem weird because I haven't heard of anyone else who felt this sensation.
Pardon me while I digress. Most of you have probably been riding on air planes since you were little. I was thirty three before I took my first ride. My wife or myself had neither ever ridden on a plane. We had neither been out of the United States when plans were being made to send us to India on a missionary trip.
As funds were being raised and our plans were being made, little attention was given by us to news of a terrorist attack on the Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. Would you believe there was animosity be Israel and Palestine 42-years-ago just like there is today?
Three Japanese men, members of the Japanese Red Army, a (terrorist group), were recruited by the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine - External Operations (PFLP-EO). These three men, were dressed in casual clothing and each carrying a violin case. Because they were Japanese, the Israelis security guards, who were on guard against possible attack by Palestinians, paid no attention to them
In their violin cases they carried AKA-47s and hand grenades. As they passed the ticket counter, they opened their cases and opened fire indiscriminately at everyone in sight. When the smoke cleared, 26 innocent people lay dead, and 80 others were injured. Two of the perpetrators died either by accidental shots by their own gang members or by suicide. The third was wounded and captured, sentenced to life in prison, but served only 13 years before being released in a trade for captured Israelis soldiers. He is a free man to this day. Most of the people killed (17) were not Israelis, but Puerto Ricans. They were U.S. Christians on their way to visit the Holy Land.
Six days after this horrifying event, my wife and I landed at the Tel Aviv airport on our way to India!
At the ticked counter at DFW airport, where they were checking out our tickets, the man looked at me and said, "Are you going through Tel Aviv? When I answered "I guess so, it's what the ticket says." "Boy! I wouldn't have the nerve enough to go there. You know about the massacres don't you?"
Actually I had heard of it but didn't realize it was less than a week before and wasn't thinking of our being at the very spot where it happened. So I asked the ticket man if I could change my ticket to bypass Tel Aviv. "No, you can't." I thanked him for his information and turned cold inside.
After changing planes in Frankfort, Germany, an observant stewardess who was from Hong Kong, could tell we were first time fliers, and that we were a bit apprehensive. She sat down beside us, introduced herself, then said, "Don't worry about Tel Aviv, it is the safest airport in the world today!"
She then proceeded to tell us the safety measures we would go through when we landed there. "You will be told to get your Visa and Passport out and hold them in your hand, and not to open any purses or bags or camera cases while there. Be sure you do as they say!"
She explained the plane would stop out on the tarmac and Israelis soldiers would come on and inspect us and then when we went inside the airport we would be searched for weapons.
As the plane taxied to stop there was a troop of soldiers who surrounded it with rifles held threateningly pointed toward each window.
When the Israelis inspectors came on the plane they were dressed in Levis and white T-shirts. They were big and muscular, and minded me of professional football players. You could tell by the look on their faces they were dead serious.
As they came down the aisle they looked first at the passports and visas, and then at their luggage or bags. Then they quickly focussed their eyes on the person's eyes, then moved on.
Two seats ahead of us there was a young Japanese man. After the inspector looked him over, then pointed at him and said, "You, get off the plane." The fellow protested and started to say, "Why? I didn't do anything." Before he could get the sentence out, the inspector grasped him by the shoulders and literally lifted him out of his seat and shoved him toward the front of the plane where other inspectors took him by each arm and escorted to the off ramp.
I looked out the window to see what was about to happen to the guy. There were five uniformed soldiers standing at the base of the stairway, each with an automatic rifle pointed straight at him. I was distracted by an announcement and didn't see what happened next, but the young man was on the bus with us which took us to the airport where we were thoroughly searched, (I was strip-searched), and told not to open any bags or purses or camera cases while in the airport. I sneaked a picture out the window, my only view of the Holy Land.
We had a long and boring layover at Tel Aviv, and the food was bad. Interestingly we met a couple from Phoenix, (where we were from at the time). Their luggage had been lost when they changed planes in Frankfort, Germany. We offered to give them some money to buy new clothes but they declined saying they had a charge card.
We arrived in Bombay around midnight. The air conditioning on the plane had me almost frozen, and then we stepped out into the hot night air of Bombay. It was about 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and the aroma was much like a sewer at home.
We didn't have any Indian money, and didn't know the protocol. Two church friends from American were there to greet us but they were upstairs and couldn't get to where we were until we cleared customs, and by this time, the porters had grabbed our luggage and were flagging down a taxi and actually putting our luggage on it. Thankfully our church friends arrived in the nick of time and rescued us. I found out later the porters weren't trying to steal our luggage, but just trying to be helpful. They didn't even hang around for a tip.
After we made it to our hotel, and got started with our mission work, we had occasion to fly from Bombay to Hyderabad. By now I felt like a veteran flier. I even got a thrill when the French 727 taxied down the runway, and when the front wheels lifted it took off like a rocket and in no time we could hardly see the ground.
By the time of our return flight, the monsoons had started and it was storming and raining cats and dogs when we entered the 747 and headed for home. I always seem to get seated above the wing so I couldn't see the ground below. The rain fell and the wind blew fiercely as we taxied down the runway, and as I looked out across those long wings I could see them flapping up and down in the storm. This got my attention, but by the time we had said a short prayer, the plane emerged above the clouds and we were bathed in bright sunlight. The trip home was mostly uneventful.
This had been my frightening introduction to flying, and, no, it hasn't stopped me from flying since then.
While in India, I was thrilled to see a Super Sonic Transport (SST) perched at the airport in Bombay, and I was surprised to see Brahman cows laying lazily on the Persian rug inside the waiting room at the airport where terrorists had slaughtered so many people.