Strong winds here, but not much else

29 May 1988 Pan American 786 Washington National to New York JFK
29 May 1988 Pan American 2 New York JFK to London Heathrow

By now, we knew it couldn't get worse, but simply being better wouldn't be much of an improvement. As it happened, our flight to Kennedy wasn't overbooked and left on time. Check in clerks gave us seats together, and checked our bags through to Heathrow. Our connection at Kennedy went smoothly, and our flight to London was not much late. What more could we have hoped for? I write this very simply, for when everything runs well, especially on an overnight flight, I find it fills up much less space.

There was to be a terrible shock for the whole world of aviation before I flew again.

28 December 1988 Orion Airways 549 London Gatwick to Fuerteventura

My parents' generosity is obviously considerable, as they invited us to join with them in their holiday in Fuerteventura. For those who do not know, Fuerteventura is one of the Canary Islands, rather sandy, rocky and windy, and with little else to recommend it. The Canary Islands enjoy a status as a tropical paradise for the British and the Germans rather similar to that which Vanuatu has to the Australians and New Zealanders, and the similarities are certainly there: both are hotter than their target market, both are less developed, both are volcanic archipelagos with some active volcanoes left, and both are around four hours flying time away. There, I am afraid, the similarities end. However, at the time of my trip to the Canary Islands, I was not able to make this comparison, for I had never then even heard of Vanuatu.

Anyway, I was investigating possible ways of reaching Gatwick in the morning, saving us the cost of a hotel at Gatwick. I didn't find one, so it was necessary for us to spend the night before the flight in an airport hotel. We chose the Gatwick Penta Hotel, one of only two airport hotels ever to have received repeat business from us. After a train journey to Gatwick, we arrived and spent the night, before wandering over to the terminal for check-in, a considerable change from anything we had ever known before. This was the world of charter, and one which I hope not to repeat in this form for a while. Not only that, but everybody was still reeling from the shock of the Pan American flight 103, which had exploded over Lockerbie just one week before. To think that just six months earlier, I had flown that very route with Pan Am. Checking in was not too bad, nor was the wait for the flight. The delays for which charters are notorious did not affect us greatly, and we were only a couple of hours late leaving. Our flight took us over France and Spain. Spain is much more mountainous than is generally imagined, and I have been told that in Europe, only Switzerland is more mountainous. Whether this is true, I couldn't say.

Our flight took us down to a very small, sandy island, and it was there that our 737 came to rest. This was Fuerteventura, formerly a one-horse town until the unfortunate demise of the horse.

We were not encouraged by the fact that on the coach transfer from the airport to the hotel, our hostess said she would tell us the things of interest in Fuerteventura. Five minutes later, she switched off the microphone.

The airport is probably their most important attraction, as it offers the means to leave. So does the wharf. We were not troubled by a large choice of day-trips. The only one which really appealed, a flight to the African coast, had been cancelled due to lack of interest. If by some mischance you do find yourself in Fuerteventura, take a trip to Lanzarote and look at the volcanic activity there. It is much more exciting, and a much more developed island.

So it was that 1988 finished, on a rather disappointing note. All the same, the year had furnished a total of fourteen thousand, one hundred and sixty-six miles travelled.

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