Dad looked at his watch. ‘We have to go. Or we’ll be late.’
I raised my voice. ‘What about breakfast?’
‘Er, um, better not, if you’re flying,’ Dad said.
‘You might chunder,’ Richard laughed.
‘Yeah, well, you never know, you might get sick.’ Dad ushered us out the Mission House and onto the front lawn; just a patch of dry grass. ‘They’ll be ready to go any minute. Better fly on an empty stomach. We’ll eat after, okay?’
The other rover, caked with red dust, stood empty and idle in the driveway.
‘Who’s taking us?’ I was curious.
‘Pastor K from Areyonga. It’s his plane. He’ll be taking you, Mr. B and Matt, okay? I had to get special permission, and they can only take three of us. So, Richard and I will be staying behind.’
‘What time are they going?’
‘Oh, er, about eight-thirty.’
I looked at my watch. ‘But it’s only eight o’clock. We have half an hour. I haven’t had a shower yet,’ I turned, ‘I don’t want to stink the plane out.’
‘Very well then.’ Dad herded us back into the house. ‘But be quick. If you’re late and miss the flight, it’ll be your fault.’
‘So, we’ve got time for breakfast?’ Richard asked.
‘I s’pose so,’ Dad said with a sigh.
I collected my toiletries and towel, and raced down the hall to the bathroom. Behind me I heard Mr. B say, ‘And you know I can’t start the day without my coffee.’
After a shower, breakfast, and making myself “bootiful”, Pastor K drove Mr. B, Matt, another man and me to Alice Springs aerodrome for the light-aircraft flight over the town.
The small yellow and white craft gleamed before us on that icy morning. I shrugged on my bright yellow parker Dad suggested I take. Then we walked towards the small plane.
‘You’re lucky,’ Pastor K said, his breath making puffs of smoke, ‘normally the plane only fits four passengers. But since, you kids are small and rather light, we can fit you in.’
I clasped my hands. ‘Thank you.’
Then, just before I climbed on board, I handed my camera to Mr. B and asked him to take a photo of me. He took his time to compose and frame the shot, then he clicked two photos of me in front of the plane.
We settled into the craft. Somehow, we all fitted in.
‘This is a brand-new plane,’ Pastor K, our pilot said. ‘Now buckle up.’
The engine puttered to life and on the plane’s nose, the propeller spun. The little plane raced down the runway and then, giving me a heady adrenalin rush, the craft roared and then lifted into the air. I loved the feeling of take-off; the speed and then launching up off the ground.
We floated above Alice Springs. The MacDonnell Ranges surrounding the town, became sandpit stumps of red. The town became tiny town of ant-people. Cars driving on grey strips of road turned into toy cars on a road map.
‘Wow!’ I swooned. The propeller noise like a jack-hammer meant we had to shout. ‘It’s beautiful!’ And I snapped half my film away on shots of Alice from the air.
‘Are you sick?’ Matt asked.
‘Nup,’ I replied. ‘Are you?’
‘Neither am I,’ Mr. B said.
I wasn’t afraid of falling out of the sky either. The plane sailed above the town. It bobbed and dipped.
‘Air pockets,’ Pastor K said. ‘Nothing to worry about. Perfect weather for flying.’
We all nodded.
All too soon the plane slowed, lowered its wheels and then glided down to land on the runway. But at least I could now say, finally, at the age of fourteen, I had flown in a plane.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Yes, that’s me in front of the plane, Alice Springs 1977, age 14