Yeah, I flew a plane (202nd new thing).

November 16, 2011 § 3 Comments

On Day Two Hundred Two I flew a plane. John Travolta, watch out.

I walked into the offices of Falcon Aviation and filled out some paperwork (no major waivers though) and was introduced to Chris, my teenage Dule Hill lookalike flight instructor. I mentioned he didn’t seem old enough to fly a plane (as if there were an age requirement) and he laughed and told me he was old, 28 years old in fact. I wonder what that makes me? I laughed and told him that he wasn’t that old as we headed out to the line of aircraft.

The smallest plane I have ever ridden in was one of those touristy ten-seaters my family piled into to see the Grand Canyon from above. My experience was a little dampened by my dad sweating and cursing, and maybe even shaking a little in the seat next to me. Like Patrick, my dad doesn’t like heights, especially heights experienced in an aircraft that feels as though the bottom could drop out any moment. So Dad, Patrick, you may want to stop reading now because the plane I rode in could only fit two people, and those people in no way could be obese. It was small.

Chris the instructor/barber (but only on weekends) walked me around the small plane, explaining what you have to check for each time you fly. Tread on the tires, no leaking fluid, all the pieces of metal secure and in place, fuel at the correct level, gauges working. Next we went through all the controls on the dash. There were many, some that even did the same thing (like the compasses). I tried to follow along, but glazed over a little. It was an abundance of information and I was ready to be airborne.

And then it was flight time. Chris started the engine, contacted control, and guided the aircraft to the runway, steering with the foot controls. “OK, your turn,” he said as we reached a straight course. My turn?

He told me to keep my right leg in line with the yellow strip down the middle of the road. We drifted a little left, so I pressed my right foot down. Now we were going right. I pressed my left foot, we picked up speed, swaying back and forth down the tarmac as I alternately shifted my feet. It was like the Hanson cars at Six Flags, except there was no raised metal barrier between the wheels to keep me in line. Finally Chris took over and I wiped my sweaty hands on my jeans.

After further communication with control we took off. Thirty seconds later I pushed my nose against the glass encircling us as Chris pointed out various landmarks. Downtown Atlanta, Buckhead, Stone Mountain. Our course was to Northpoint Mall in Alpharetta, turning around and coming back.

Once we were up in the air, heading in a straight line north, Chris once again handed the control of the plane over to me. This time the joystick device would control the direction and height. I kept it steady, correcting for the leftward drift that comes from the single engine plane. I pulled back a little to go higher. I stared at the direction indicators, trying to keep the “N” for North front and center. Chris told me to look outside, that the plane could basically fly itself. And here I thought I was doing something.

I only steered the aircraft for a minute or so before handing back the reins to my instructor. Honestly, I would rather look out the window and squeal a little as we hit an air pocket that dropped my stomach. I was in it for the adventure, not necessarily the lesson.

I asked Chris if he knew any flying tricks, like rolling the plane over. He said he could do a free fall and the climb back up, but after an unfortunate incident the week before involving a man who couldn’t keep his lunch in his belly, Chris was reluctant. I felt a mixture of disappointment and relief at the dashed possibility. I mean, free fall? That sounds scary. We did however do a forty-five degree turn, on my side, so I could look nearly straight down at the ground. It made me feel a little dizzy, but not in a bad way. More like, “wow, I’m looking straight down from a thousand feet up!”

The half hour of flying passed really quickly, probably because I was in sensory overload with all of the new visual stimulation. The flight back to the Dekalb-Peachtree airport seemed to take no time at all. Chris offered to let me land the plane (ha, ha). The landing was actually smoother than that of a lot of commercial airlines I’ve flown on.

My adrenaline stayed pumping on the entire drive home, although the drive itself was really odd, like when you’ve been running on a treadmill and the start to walk. You feel like you’re moving really slowly. I still felt like I was flying, albeit with four wheels on the ground…and very slowly.

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