NIGHT FLIGHT

Jet Trails Over Prince Edward Island

I captured these two jets flying above us as we stood trying to take lighthouse pictures last evening.

For 16 years, coming to Prince Edward Island has meant enjoying evenings featuring these reflected jet contrails as they painted their way from west to east just before sunset. In what I think to be the evening melancholy time, just before the sun settled below the horizon, we would almost always be treated to few minutes where one or more tiny plane specks would be illuminated and then fade quickly as the sun sank lower.

During a visit here a few years ago, I was struck by the half dozen or so trails visible at once. It finally dawned on me to consider the travelers on these planes. Where did they depart? Where were they going? These were fleeting thoughts, but since then, we traded places and became one of the plane travelers.

It was July 2014 and our long anticipated 40th anniversary trip to Ireland almost didn’t happen. Things started out well enough. Our tour was charted to depart from JFK, and to save money, we purchased low-cost tickets with another airline to get to New York. We departed Knoxville on Thursday July 3rd and were thrilled to be on our way, but once we arrived in Charlotte we began seeing flight after flight cancelled due to Hurricane Arthur spinning off the coast. All flight segment to JFK was among those cancelled and there were to be no more opportunities to JFK until the next day.

We figured that we had completely missed the tour, so we re-booked our flight and chose to return from Charlotte back to Knoxville for a very late night arrival. Meanwhile, our luggage was lost in the system, marked for JFK. The next day we called the tour company and cancelled. Even though they encouraged us to try and find a way to Ireland on our own and pick up the tour later, we were certain that there would be no way to get from Knoxville to Dublin in a way we could afford. And after all, all our luggage was lost. Therefore, we resigned ourselves and settled in for a glum 4th of July holiday.

On Saturday morning we woke rested with minds much clearer. We called airlines. Could we get to Ireland? Delta told us that they would route us directly from Knoxville through Atlanta with no additional cost, but we needed to be at the airport soon. Can we get our money back on our aborted US Airways flight? They promised a full refund. Can they find our luggage? It was in New York but they thought it possible to get it back to Knoxville by noon. Can we re-book and join our tour? Yes. Can we use travel insurance to account for the missing tour days? Yes.

We enlisted our neighbor to take us to the airport and arrived just as our luggage was returning from JFK via US Airways and we wheeled it the few feet to the Delta counter. In just minutes, we breezed through security, thanks to a TSA-Precheck, and settled into the Economy Plus seats that Delta gave us as an extra bonus. The flight segments were a blur, but finally we were on our way. It seemed unreal that our bad fortune had turned to such giddy excitement.

Finally and safely aboard the evening Atlanta to Dublin flight, we huddled together and sighed happily, We accessed the flight tracker on the screen before us, which showed a route up the spine of the Appalachian Mountains then across Maritime Canada to Dublin. As we looked closely , we figured we might be near the northern tip of of our beloved Prince Edward Island. As the sun set behind us, we could see the dim outline of land below and remembered the summer evenings when we would be the ones on the ground looking up.

To the souls on these planes in the picture above, we wonder where you are going and hope you are thinking about us below as well. For our part, that night we flew at an altitude of 6 miles carried with it some comfort thinking that there might be people below watching and wishing us good travels.

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