16 December 2016

Aerodrone Season

It is Aircraft Season.

What is it about this town? Most of the year things are pretty peaceful around here. Skies are clear and free of noise aside from the occasional commercial aircraft flying in over the mountains from Parts North, settling in for final approach to George Airfield. As they pass over our heads they'll be just at that stage after, "Please ensure that your tray-tables are stowed, your window-blinds are fully open, and your seat-back is in the locked, upright position for landing." The stewardess has is making her way up the aisle checking that everyone is in full compliance with the safety regulations, and is on her way to her little fold-down seat to strap herself in for the landing. The plane is still so high in the sky that we seldom hear them. The only sign that they're passing is the straight, white contrail they leave across the deep blue.

No, the commercial flights are not a problem aside from the normal concerns one might have around petrochemical pollution and dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. The problem planes are the small, private aircraft.

The problem is noise. For the main part of the year, we get an occasionally light plane passing by, or, once in a while, a helicopter. The really noisy helicopter is one that the National Parks people use once or twice a year for training exercises for the Fire Fighting teams. That thing is awesomely noisy. A hard, hammering sound slaps down out of the sky like something out of a Vietnam War movie, and you'd be easily excused for thinking you were in a war-zone when you hear it coming as much as ten minutes before it lumbers into view. But that only happens a couple of times a year.

Then there are the microlights. A neighbouring farmer has a small, informal airstrip on his farm, built when he owned his own microlight. Nowadays he flies a motorised glider, so the only noise it makes is a quite inoffensive murmur as he gets it into the air. He does occasionally allow touring microlight enthusiasts to use his strip, but he is very good about asking them to avoid flying over our neighbourhood, having received complaints in years gone by from residents who enjoy suntanning naked in their backyards and get a bit miffed at the sudden appearance of low-flying aircraft.

But for some reason at this time of year, the Holiday Time Of Year, Peak Tourism Season, we get invaded by an infestation of noisy aeroplanes, clouds of buzzing midges with nothing better to do than drone about. Small planes whose pilots love nothing better than to wheel aimlessly overhead for a couple of hours, round and round and up and down and round and round again. They're not even good enough flyers to pull off any interesting aerobatics. Round and round and up and down, droning and moaning and generally wrecking the peace and quiet with a blissful disregard for anybody else.

Then there's Jet Propelled Guy. He hasn't arrived yet. It's still a little early in the tourist season. He (maybe its "she", though, generalising wildly here, women are usually a bit more considerate, and it seems to me more likely a testosterone-amped Alpa Male type) generally comes to town closer to Christmas, and flies about in a little jet-propelled plane, insanely noisy. Also an up and down and round and round artiste, but now with added roaring. The ego-riddled selfishness is quite beyond my comprehension. What sort of metastasised sense of self-entitlement, what corroded set of social values, enables this one person to destroy the quiet enjoyment of the thousands below on the Earth who are forced, unasked and unwilling, to pay the price of the solipsist solo flyer's self-indulgence?

There are also any number of Helicopter types. They fly those tiny, mosquito-looking things that make a hell of a racket out of all proportion to their size. We had one of them living just down the road a few years ago. He (really "he" in this case), of a Sunday afternoon, would flit from his "farm" to one of the upmarket golf-estates for a round of golf. In and out and roundabout he'd go, to do the shopping, to fly to some Important Meeting in George, down to Cape Town for drinkies at Camps Bay,... sometimes several times a day. The noise was awful. He was completely arrogant about it. I'd say "unsympathetic" to our concerns, but no, "sympathy" was not a concept that entered into his world. He was Big Important Asshole, and we little people ought to consider ourselves privileged to put up with the result of his ego-rot, his non-existent grasp of ethical consideration for other peoples' rights. Eventually we got him shut down by legal means, though it did come close to proclaiming Open Goose Hunting Season.

No, it's mainly this time of year when aircraft become a plague in the sky. The time of year when rich, over-entitled idiots take to the skies. I suppose it is the price we are expected to live with in exchange for the content of their wallets, off which the local economy feeds for the remainder of the year.

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