Don’t Walk a Mile in My Shoes


In the mid-1990s, I worked at McDonnell-Douglas in Southern California and would rent a Cessna 152 every Wednesday at 5:00 pm to fly out of Long Beach airport for pleasure and to keep current.

Co-workers knew of my flying routine and one day, a young woman asked if she could get a ride with me. I said yes and as a basic passenger rule, I asked whether she got airsick or carsick. I was assured it would not be a problem.

We met at the club facility and preflighted the plane, got in, did the passenger briefing and took off for a tour out over the ocean close to shore. Air was smooth, visibility was fine and the plane worked perfectly.

We were at 1000 feet msl about 15 minutes away from the airport, with beautiful shoreline views, when she said she was feeling airsick. I immediately turned the plane around to head back and told her to hang in there.

Now, when I was a student pilot, an old-timer once mentioned that if I ever had an airsick passenger, I should tell them they had to throw up in their shoe and that might dissuade them from doing it. I had laughed it off then but thought perhaps there might be some truth to it.

Looking back, his recommendation may have had something to do with the shoe’s odor. So I told my passenger in an authoritative pilot voice that she would have to use her left shoe as the airsickness receptacle. She rightly questioned me on why and I said something about air safety regulations required this procedure.

Meanwhile, we were nearing the airport. I had contacted the tower and advised that I had a sick passenger. But at 5:30 pm, there were five other airplanes in the pattern ahead of me. When we finally were cleared to land, I reassured her that we would be on the ground shortly and urged her hold it in if possible.

As soon as we landed, I received tower permission to pull off the runway onto the grass so my passenger could do her thing. At that point, she said she didn’t have to do anything anymore, especially in her good shoes. We taxied to tie-down and went home.

I have never had that situation again but you might someday, so remember: It has to be in the left shoe.


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