Baby Plane

Dear Reader,

Asking about someone’s weight is awkward at best and downright rude at worst. However, when the ticketing agent at the Boston Logan airport asked me how much I weighed, I already knew that this question was not only standard, but also crucial.

For a last-minute work trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, I was in a bind about how to quickly get to Cape Cod. Located on the westernmost point of the Cape, Provincetown is its liveliest destination (known for its pride-related events), but it is also the furthest away from Boston. The drive is only about two hours south of Boston (closer to three with traffic), however, without a car, the trek becomes a little more complicated.

In the early fall, one can still rely on the few daily bus transfers, ferry passages, and Cape Air flights to and from Boston. Flying to Provincetown wasn’t my first choice, however, it was the only mode of transportation that allowed for a somewhat early arrival (8:30am). Although I have become more of a frequent flyer, I was a total newbie when it came to flying Cape Air.

Founded in 1989, Cape Air is most known for its short flights connecting Boston and NYC to Cape Cod, as well as the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. In addition, Cape Air also flies short routes from Florida to the Caribbean as well as from Billings, Montana to the surrounding communities.

Even though I checked in for my flight to Provincetown online, my boarding pass required a “recheck” at the departure gate. It was this recheck when the gate agent entered my weight into the system and printed a boarding pass for me. The pass said that I was seated in “1A,” however, I was sure that this assignment was merely a placeholder.

Sitting at the gate, I noticed how many others were also waiting for their flights. Unlike most other gates, the overhead monitor did not display the boarding times. Instead, several departure times to nearby New England locations were listed.

At one point, the gate agent announced boarding for Bar Harbor, Maine, prompting five people to queue up front. After several more minutes of waiting, I checked my watch to see that my scheduled departure time was only 15 minutes away. I looked over to the gate agent to see that she was dealing with a disgruntled customer. Apparently, due to a weight imbalance, one passenger would be moved onto a later flight to Martha’s Vineyard. Although volunteers were solicited and enticed by two FREE roundtrip tickets, there were no takers and this man, who apparently rechecked in last, was being forced off his flight of choice.

The man protested that he was a “frequent flier,” “valued customer” and had a 9:30am meeting that he could not miss. Although I understood his anger (fearing that I could encounter a similar fate), I found his reaction toward the flight agent to be both disgraceful and disrespectful.

Six minutes before my scheduled departure time, the Provincetown-bound passengers were called to board. Two other women and I were led to the gate and a friendly air traffic controller showed us to the plane. This plane was small. Smaller than a celebrity’s private jet, I would guess. Immediately, I thought to myself — this is how Buddy Holly died.

We weren’t permitted to bring any bags on board (there was no room for them anyway — no overhead bins or under-seat storage). Instead, the controller put the smaller bags in a compartment in the wing of the plane and the larger ones into the nose of the plane.

The woman ahead of me was instructed to sit anywhere she liked, and I was told to sit across from her. The third woman was then directed to sit in the row behind us. With one seat on each side of the narrow aisle, everyone on this flight had a window seat.

The controller closed the door and the pilot turned to face us. He introduced himself by name and in lieu of any overhead announcement of safety instructions, the pilot gave a quick version of the spiel himself and pointed out the life vests and the emergency exits. The weather was clear, and he informed us that this would be a quick twenty-minute flight.

The casual atmosphere was surreal. It was like hopping into an Uber with wings.

Take off was easy, as this plane flew low in the sky and was much closer to the water than to the clouds. With large windows all around, we were able to take in the expansive ocean views (I swear, I saw a dolphin or a porpoise or something!). And, before we knew it, the pilot was already announcing our landing in Provincetown, which was equally smooth.

Provincetown, MA

Not all Cape Air flights are this easy. Even mildly inclement weather can make for a bumpy ride or postpone the flight. On September 9, 2021 a Cape Air flight went down in the trees near Provincetown and everyone on board was injured (luckily no fatalities!).

Altogether, I got lucky with the weather, with the pilot, with the women on my flight, and with the competency of everyone working at the Boston and Provincetown airports. (I am never one to underestimate the power of chance.) And with that, I wish you good luck too, dear Reader, with everything (and most especially with teeny, tiny planes).

Happy flying!

Love,

Raven

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