A celestial ride
Force of habit makes you forget that even though you may be right-wing, you always board an aircraft on the left. The reason for this isn’t a technical one, but rather a historical oneand a reason, I must admit, that gives me great delight. Early airplane pilots at the beginning of the last century were officers, coming for the most part from the prestigious ranks of the cavalry. Period photographs show them beneath the aircraft wings, dressed in helmet, shoulder strap, boots and baggy trousers. All that was missing was the riding crop and spurs. They climbed into the cockpit as if clambering into the saddlefrom the left side. The swords of medieval knights and hussars’ sabers during the French Empire period were traditionally worn on the left, making it easier for right-handed riders to unsheathe them as quickly as possible when battling or charging. By putting their left foot into the left-hand stirrup, they could easily mount the horse unencumbered by their blade and without injuring the animal. When cavalry regiments disappeared and we stopped galloping around with weapons, people continued to mount horses from the left, turning their back to the horse’s head, left hand grasping the reins and pommel. The pioneers of aviation, turning their backs this time on the propeller, climbed into their incredible flying machines with the technique and dexterity of horsemen. And today we access the cabin of an Airbus A380 or a Boeing B777 in the same way that a cowboy jumps into the saddle and Bartabas “enters” (a verb he loves) the horse. In short, passengers on Air France, this fleet of Pegasi, are centaurs unbeknownst to themselves. Whether on horseback or by plane, it’s always about climbing up to reach that invisible space somewhere between heaven and earth, where the air is purer and bliss is at hand. This is why the more I climb, the less I want to come back down. In the saddle, I’m on cloud nine. My idea of paradise.