Just another flight. In the wee hours and across the continent. And yet in those hours there were so many sights to be seen as the near full moon illuminated the sky and gave form to the landscape below.
Although the jet stream of wind was blowing at nearly 200 miles per hour in its core, the air was as smooth as glass. Only the vector on the instrument display and the readout of speed over the ground gave any indication of the invisible torrent outside. Then there was a light, bright and white at first, and holding steady ahead and to the right. Glancing at the display again, the Traffic Collision and Avoidance system, or TCAS, did not indicate the presence of another aircraft and yet there it was, growing brighter and larger in the windscreen.
Just as a heightened state of readiness began to pervade the flight deck, the light began to slide down the right-hand side of the aircraft at a distance that was difficult to gauge, but not too close at hand. It now tinged red and began to display a wispy tail behind it like a supersonic, blazing tadpole. A meteor? Space junk? Whichever it was, its 20 seconds of spectacular glory began to fade until it was a mere rust-coloured pin-prick. And then it was gone.
Under that same moon, just a little older, another blinking light lay ahead. This time it was Venus announcing the day was very near as the distant lights of the coast began to compete with the burgeoning dawn. The moon in its glory was now behind us as a soft orange crescent arced along the horizon ahead. Venus rose high and her blinking steadied to a noble planetary gaze, her job now done.
As the shore slipped beneath the belly, the sun was yet to break cover, but its light was still bold enough to cast shadows from the ranges that lay just inland. The moon, still bold, had taken on tiger stripes as thin ribbons of cloud contrasted with its golden glow. Over water, no waves were breaking, only a large vessel spewing its own arcing fountain created even a ripple.
With the runway ahead and cleared to land, the control tower advised that the wind was calm - probably because 'magically still' is not standard phraseology in the world of aviation. The wheels squeaked onto the runway, apologising for disrupting nature’s perfect peace. As the aircraft reached its parking bay, the sun finally announced its arrival with a fresh, fiery sky, laced with pink-tinged clouds.
Yeah, just another flight.