The Gear Monkey

Musings from up there... and other places

Gravity Waves

N33°0.91′ W134°18.83′
0330 ZULU

We track eastward underneath a darkening sky that arches high overhead, cascading downward like a dome, its bottom edges holding the dull orange glow of the just set sun. The moon, mere hours from the fullest point of its 29 day cycle, has been sliding upwards from the fuzzy terminator line of earth and sky for the last hour, a bright white marble against the deepening blue of the heavens.

The flight thus far has been smooth, and in the stillness, the quiet power of the engines, spooled down to their cruise setting, makes itself tangible through the barely perceptible vibrations that pass up the wing, through the fuselage, and into my feet when I plant them firmly on the floor. Despite being at our maximum altitude, this plane still has power to give. On the other side of the cockpit glass the air that blasts by at 80% of the speed of sound is chilled to almost negative 60 degrees Celsius, but inside our protected bubble the temperature is a comfortable 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Across the cockpit from me the captain stares ahead into the oncoming darkness as he has no doubt done on the multitude of flights east into the night he’s flown over the years. Earlier, in the bright glare of the afternoon sun, as we sat at the gate waiting for the last of the bags to be loaded, I asked him how long he’s been flying. Misunderstanding my question, he answered with the 2 years 3 months and 8 days (not that he’s counting or anything) that he had left before mandatory retirement at age 65. How many moon cycles is that I wonder, and over the years, how many full moons has he drifted under, on wings of metal and composite?

The halfway point of our crossing–measured in time not distance, and represented by nothing more than a pre-computed point on the globe appears at the top edge of my now dimmed-down map display. Soon the hypothetical magnetic pull of the continental United States will overpower that of the Islands behind our tail. But for now, over the unclaimed middle of the sea, the moon holds sway, drawing us onward and upward into the approaching night.

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