But yes, I managed to do a little bit of flying on Sunday. I never seem to ask Wes what he has in store for me before we get up in the air. Probably because I know he’ll say “I don’t know. Let’s just get up there and see what happens”, which will freak me out more since I’m already thinking of the millions of things that could happen, none of which I am trained for or are likely to remember. Even during the walk-around my mind’s turned into a pile of static mush; it strains to keep perspective, struggling to focus on the now yet trying to remember each past experience. But as soon as we're in the cockpit and I put my radio on my mind focuses. Now I get to look at the pretty screens that tell me what to do! I mean, now I get to focus 90% of my attention outside the cockpit and let the “feel” of the airplane tell me what to do.
So once we're airborne, Wes moseys us on over to Oxnard and decides that today we (I) will practice landings and flying the pattern. Personally, I like being up high in the air if we’re flying. There’s less stuff to crash into, like THE GROUND. But each adventure in aviation wouldn’t be fulfilling if I wasn’t going outside my comfort zone and slowly conquering my fears! Wes walks me through it, letting me handle the throttle and stick and reminding me of the altitudes, angles and airspeeds which I should follow while flying the pattern. Let’s see what I remember: hmm…. just give me a minute… well you want to be full throttle on take off, then you want too (shoot, Wes is sitting right next to me and I so want to ask him, but I need to at least try to remember! Raa!)… then you want to start to pull the power back about 200 feet before you reach your cruising altitude, which in our case was 1000 feet. We’re approved for left traffic, so when we’re pulling our power back we also want to be making our first 90 degree left turn. Then we level off. We’re cruising to the left of the airport, and when we reach the runway identifier numbers, we pull the power back even more (maybe to 3500? I’m guessing) and we give plane 10 degrees of flaps so we start to descend. Then once we’re at a 45 degree angle past the end of the runway we point the noise down, make another left turn and cut the power even more (it’s getting really fuzzy now). We’re constantly monitoring our airspeed as we make the final left turn trying to line the runway up between our legs.
Then we launch our torpedoes and shoot the enemy traffic out of our way.
Just kidding! We actually pretend we’re going to land, but just after we reach the landing threshold on the runway, we push the power all the way in and take off again. Then we fly the pattern again and again just for fun!
Flying the pattern’s pretty cool. It’s almost as much fun as heading back to the hangar after my flying lesson is over.