The bodies of healthy people are a work of wonder. The miraculous coordination of all our organs enables us to go about our daily lives, without our having to think about how each piece of the fabric that makes us up, works.
I arrived at the ANA maintenance facility drenched in sweat after a good 15-minute walk from Shin-Seibijo Station on the Tokyo Monorail. All Nippon Airways offers several free tours a day. Upon arrival, I was ushered into an air-conditioned classroom and sat through an engaging half-hour presentation that consisted of lectures, videos and interactive quizzes.
I learned many things about airplanes, and much to my delight, I think I can now explain how airplanes fly even to a young child.
I knew that ANA had special aircraft liveries, but the only one I could come up with was Pikachu. Now I can tell you about Star Wars and Hello Kitty, and soon, Honu, a Hawaiian green sea turtle that will adorn flights to and from Honolulu. (Never mind that the green sea turtle is actually blue on the aircraft.)
On the second half of the tour, we put on hard hats and visited a hangar. The ceiling was 26 meters high, and on the wall was a clock that looked tiny but was really 153 centimeters in circumference, or so we were told.
Our guide pointed out exterior details on an aircraft we otherwise might not have noticed: a special door for Japan Post, a camera mounted near the pilots’ window that streams live views of the outside into the cabin, and the weather radar in the Shinkansen-looking nose that can determine weather conditions an astonishing 600 kilometers ahead.
The facility is a 24-hour operation. Come to think of it, it’s not uncommon for a late-arriving plane to have to be serviced and ready for an early-morning flight. We learned that, on average, flights take off and land every two minutes at Haneda Airport. According to our guide, during peak times, sometimes there’s only 45 seconds between. Holy mackerel!
Pilots, cabin crew, ground staff, airport facility management, air traffic controllers, mechanics and people behind the scenes you’ve probably never thought about, all work together as one to allow passengers to travel to where they need to be.
Unlike our bodies, this is a coordinated effort, painstakingly created by humans. When we have our act together, we can do wonderful things, can’t we!
This article by Lisa Vogt, a Washington-born and Tokyo-based photographer, originally appeared in the Aug. 20 issue of Asahi Weekly. It is part of the series "Lisa’s In and Around Tokyo," which depicts the capital and its surroundings through the perspective of the author, a professor at Meiji University.