How to Write a Flying Scene


Part One 

  1. Coach or first class?

»A. How is it for them before take off in coach?

I. When boarding, you barely feel the plane move. The cabin crew will tell you about what to do in case of emergencies. They will do a demonstration or show a video of where the exits are, how to fasten your seatbelt, when portable electronics can and can’t be used, etc. The instructions the flight crew will give are also on the safety card which is in the pouch on the back of the seat in front of you.
II. The captain will come on and give a little speech about the flight and what to expect – talking about how long it will take until take-off, what to the weather would be like in your destination city, and how long the flight should take.
III. The surrounding: Tight seats, bag of peanuts, small, cheap blanket, hard pillows, you’re sitting with families with babies and poorly behaved children. Describe the noises: a baby crying in the seat in front, someone kicking your seat from behind, the gnawing irritation of hearing of a screaming child in the row behind you, an old couple grumbling about the noise near by, a teenage lad listening to music and looking bored next to his dad.

Other interesting thing you can include:
—-Trying to remember if you forgot to pack something.
—-The feeling of triumph of getting the window seat over another passenger.
—-The overly polite and attractive (or robotic) stewardess trying to reassure everyone of their safety.
—-Regretting eating that last slice of pie, because s/he feels it’s about to come up.

IV. Describe the clouds in the sky outside, looking like white cotton candy. Imagine feeling hot and sticky, and cramped up, but the character is near the window and get to look out. The air conditioner. is blowing in their hair. They feel bored and their limbs ache. As they try to get to sleep it always seems impossible on a plane.


»B. How about in first class?

I. Plenty of seat room, better blankets, more amenities, hot food well served, attendants are more solicitous of your every need. You’ll be sitting with the wealthy and the businesspersons. It will be a lot quieter.

II. They are served champagne and hot appetizers when boarding the plane and are always addressed by name, they have a full bed with down comforters and pillows and are given designer pajamas (which they can keep), designer amenity kit, four course meals with tablecloth (with lobster salads, steaks and caviar) and real silverware and china, 15″ lcd tv, noise cancelling headphones, a private closet. The bathrooms are the same as coach, but kept spotless and well stocked with lotions, colognes, razors and shaving cream, etc.


Part Two

    1. Takeoff time.

»A. What does the plane do?

I. Take off can be a little nerve racking. When the plane prepares for take off, going slow then all of a sudden it gets faster down the runway, and then within a few seconds it is up in the air. It usually takes about 10-15 seconds to take off from the ground. Things may seem a little wobbly at first, but that’s just because of moving through the different altitudes.

Starting up a plane is different than a car. There is no ignition key to turn. The pilot has a checklist of things he needs to do in order to get the airplane turned on. He has to push certain circuit breakers in, and program navigation computers. Also they usually get clearance from the control tower before the engines are turned on.

A few words to use for a plane in take off or landing:

-Swooped, Darted, Shot, Ascended, Descended, Rushed (describing the wind through their hair), Dashed (describing trees going by), Bounded (before taking off), Soar, float, glide, circle (as in circle the house), climb (higher), dash, flit, flutter, flap (wings, maybe), whiz, zip, zoom, speed, skim, hover, sail, maneuver.


»B. What does the character experience during takeoff?

I. Their ears might “pop” as they climb through the altitudes because the air high above the surface of Earth is less dense than air near the surface. As they ascend in an airplane and the air pressure decreases, the air trapped in your inner ear will cause your eardrums to push outward.
II.  The character may be pushed back in their chair, holding tight onto their seat or loved one, nervous breathing, eyes shut tight, hearing someone using an inhaler, and so forth.

Part Three

    1. How is the flying?

»A. What does the flight feel like?

I.  Once you are in the air, things will feel smooth. They will hear the hum of the engines. If there is turbulence, the character might feel the plane wobble a little bit (usually up and down) but planes are designed to withstand this. It might give them butterflies in their stomach. After a few minutes, they will hear a ding. That is the captain letting the flight attendants know that the plane has reached the cruising altitude. At this point, the rate of ascent will decrease. Then an announcement that it’s now okay to use their electronic devices.
II. It’s the same as riding in a car when cruising at altitude. Once their in level flight it doesn’t feel like much. You don’t feel any different and you don’t realize you are ‘flying.’  Usually planes have a very slight upwards tilt during flying level, so they may notice it. Rarely, there is a quick course correction made, likely due to an air traffic situation. A plane can dive a few thousand feet suddenly due to an ATC request. Pilots apologize when they do that.

»B. Does the character experience anything? What are they doing?

I. To entertain themselves they may:

  • Read a book, magazine, the paper, or do a puzzle (such as crosswords or Sodoku).
  • Listen to music using an iPod, MP3 player, or CD player.
  • Play games on laptop, connect to the internet, and get any work done that they have.
  • Try talking to the people next to them. Sometime they will meet interesting people, and forge friends.

II.  People usually cough if there is the flu around, but not all that bad. The drone of the engines tends to make some background noise and the character can wear earplugs which are usually included in a little amenities package even on coach flights. If they sit next to the aisle they have to get up to let someone pass, but can also get up to walk around and stretch their legs.


Part Four

    1. The landing.

»A. When the plane begins to land what happens?

I.  During landing it’s like when you’re on a roller coaster and it stops really fast. You almost have to brace yourself on the seat in front. It’s not claustrophobic, even on the smaller jets. The air pressure increases, while your inner ear is still at the lower pressure it has adjusted to. Now, the extra pressure pushes the eardrums inward.

The best ways are to alleviate the pressure:

  • Chew gum
  • Drink something
  • Suck on a hard candy or mints
  • Yawn
  • Pinch the nostrils shut, take a deep breath in through the mouth, then force the air into the back of the nose as if trying to blow your nose

II.  They will feel the plane slow down and the cabin crew will prepare them for landing. As you get close to the destination, the captain will come back on and tell them how much longer until they land, and what the weather is like. When the plane touches down it feels almost like a short jolt, and then they will hear them turn the engines to idle and the plane slows down pretty fast.

From there, the plane will taxi to either the gate or the designation where a bus will pick the character up. They must wait for the plane to decompress a few moments before they start letting the passengers out.


»B. How does the plane land? Okay? Not okay?

I. Landings can be fairly gentle to surprisingly rough, it’s all normal and the rougher landings can be intentional. Landing is less harsh than a speed bump, but the plane will hit the ground and will wallow and judder a bit when it brakes on the runway.


Part Five

    1. Getting off the flight.

»A. How does the character(s) feel? What do they do?

I. When the character lands in their final destination, they will go to baggage claim and get their bags. If anyone is meeting them at the airport, this is usually where they will pick them up.  

II. Give a brief overview of how the character is feeling or thinking about their flight. Then talk about thoughts for the arrival and what they plan on achieving at their destination.


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3 thoughts on “How to Write a Flying Scene

  1. This is helpful, thanks. I was wondering, would you be able to do something on like dragons and how flying and fighting on a dragon would look like with swords. I know you did one on swordfighting, but could you do one on fighting and flying while on a dragon?

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