Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adventures in Aviation, Part Cinq

This weekend marked my first official flying lesson. Official meaning: I FINALLY HAVE SOMETHING WRITTEN IN MY LOGBOOK and I’M STILL ALIVE. Yes!

It was all planned out. Saturday we would go to the airport and I would take my lesson with Mr. Instructor, while my Lovies worked on things in the hangar and perhaps fit in some flying of his own. Then the weather happened. Wind gusts up to 30 knots do not make for the most ideal flying weather, especially when the plane weighs like 30 lbs. Yes that was a gross exaggeration, the plane weighs like 32 lbs, but the point is that the weather is one of the most important elements to be aware of when you’re flying. Winds, icing, all that jazz; you’ve got to be on top of it. So my flying lesson got pushed to Sunday, and I got to do yard work instead.

The winds were still blowing on Sunday morning, but they had subsided enough to make taking a flying lesson safe. Then as we’re driving to the airport, I realize “Holy cow, I’ve never been in an airplane without my Lovies, let alone responsible for flying the thing!” I guess that’s not really true, considering all the commercial flights I’ve taken with strangers, but at the time all I could think of was how nervous I was and how strange flying with Mr. Instructor would be. I’ve got flying dependency issues. Probably should break those before I fly SOLO. Don’t worry, that won’t be for a looong time.

We arrive at the airport early, giving me enough time to center my thoughts and calm my nervousness. Mr. Instructor arrives and goes over the basic certification and documentation requirements, which I quickly confuse because now the anticipation of getting in the plane and flying is distracting me. We do a walk-around, get in the plane, and then it starts. Switches are flicked, buttons are pushed, something about the choke, something about the throttle, press that big red button, propeller is turning, “no keeping holding down the red button until it starts!”, engine is alive, “ok now start heading towards the taxiway.” I think “Wow it’s happening so fast. Thank goodness I know how to taxi.”

We make our way down the taxiway towards the runway. No other planes are around which is perfect, because now I can focus on our plane and what Mr. Instructor is saying without being distracted by other people. “Mr. Instructor is saying so much and I’m having trouble trying to listen to him while not crashing this airplane! Wait, what? You’re telling me it’s my plane? But we’re about to enter the active runway, which means we’re going to have to takeoff, and I’ve never done this before… Oh crap, too late.” At this point, perhaps by divine intervention, I’ve successfully operated both the throttle and stick and we are airborne.

Being in the air is thrilling. “The takeoff was scary, but I sort of conquered it, and now I’m in a more familiar element. I can do turns and fly the pattern so lay it on me Mr. Instructor!” Total time my confidence lasts: 2 minutes. As soon as we’re heading east into unfamiliar territory I get nervous. And then Mr. Instructor directs me to head towards 170 (on a compass, north is 360 degrees and south is 180 degrees). Except at 170 there is a big freaking MOUNTAIN. I do not like to fly towards, around, by, over, under, anything a mountain unless it is completely necessary. Call me crazy.

Mr. I: Now start a left turn. No, a steeper banked turn.
Me: Uh, you want me to turn in front of the mountain? Cause I was going to go around it.
Mr. I: No, turn in front of it.
Me: Are you sure? Do you think we will clear it?
Mr. I: Yes, we are well above it.
Me (unsaid): Oh sweet petunias, I sure hope you’re right!
I should have clicked my radio on so my Lovies could have heard that conversation. He was listening to us on the radio as we flew around.

We’ve been flying for what seems like an hour and my nerves are shot. Mr. Instructor apologizes that he has to cut today’s lesson shorter than normal; he would love to fly longer since we’re doing so well, but how about we head back to the airport and do one round of pattern work before we’re finished. Somehow I equate this to mean: Mr. Instructor will now land the plane; my job here is done. Not so fast. “Wait, what? You’re telling me it’s my plane? But we’re about to do a touch-and-go, which means we’re going to have to land and then immediately takeoff again, and I’ve never done this before… Oh crap, too late. Man, this keeps happening!” 

But look! That little spec is us!

When we finally land for a complete stop (airplane language for we are done with our flight), I am sweaty, fried yet have an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.

As intense as that lesson was, I can’t wait to get back in the air and practice more and more.


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