At 35,000 Feet – 1’45”

Thoughts of travel usually revolve around the experiences to be had in the destination, but not in the journey itself. On a recent flight to Melbourne I was reminded of Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel, which succinctly highlights the contradictions we experience between our fantasies and reality of travel: In anticipation, there had simply been a vacuum between the airport and the hotel. Nothing had existed in my mind between the last line of the itinerary and the hotel room.

Speaking specifically about the experience of flight, de Botton continues: The clouds usher in tranquility. Below us are enemies and colleagues, the sites of our terrors and our griefs, all of them now infinitesimal, scratches on the earth. We may know this old lesson in perspective well enough, but rarely does it seem as true as when we are pressed against the cold plane window, our craft a teacher of profound philosophy.

The sonic experiences of flight seem at odds with this tranquility. At 35,000 feet our brains are numbed by the monotonous hum of the engines and the constant drone of the air-conditioning unit. These sounds are punctuated by the predictable occurrence of babies crying and the PA-system telling us to fasten our seat-belts. We arrive at our destination slightly tranquillised, the sounds of the arrival point slowly re-igniting our enthusiasm towards the trip.

8 thoughts on “At 35,000 Feet – 1’45”

  1. Hi – thanks for the comment. I originally wanted to record the plane taking-off and landing but as you probably know we can’t use electronic instruments during those periods. It was also hard to find a place to position the recorder where it wouldn’t vibrate. Still, I’m happy with the final result.


  2. There are jokes about the fact that each plane has a crying baby 🙂

    When I flew for the first time (not so long ago, by the way) I tried to listen music, but the deep drone ambient in my headphones combined with a natural plane drone was too much.

    Do you have an airport noise records with voice announcement?


  3. This post strikes a chord with me. There was a time when it seemed that I spent more time at 35,000 feet than I did on the ground! It was almost always a mind numbing experience. However, flying from Singapore to Adelaide was more interesting. Oceans of bright blue sky above and endless miles of red dirt below interrupted only by the magnificent sight of Uluru as we passed overhead. It made me realise just how big and magnificent Australia is, especially from 35,000 feet.


    1. Wow, you paint a beautiful portrait of both flight and Australia. You could almost get a job with Tourism Australia now I think. I didn’t realise you’d been here before. Was Adelaide your only stop?
      I suppose the beauty of travel depends on where you are travelling and if there is cloud cover – this trip was over the ocean with blinding white clouds the whole way, the senses moving inwards to the sounds of the plane. Still, when any kind of holiday is a privilege I shouldn’t complain too much.


      1. I’ve been to Australia twice, once to Perth and once to Adelaide. I love the country despite two serious drawbacks … those poisonous critters that creep up on you in the dead of night and Aussie Rules Football. Dang … I never did get the hang of that!


      2. The 2 most isolated cities. It’s amazing flying over Adelaide with the blue ocean on one side and the dried white salt lakes on the other.
        The critters I can deal with, but no loss on not getting the hang of the football.


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