Monday, January 10, 2011

Adventures in Aviation, Part Neuf

Saturday marked my fifth official flight lesson after not being in any plane for almost a month. All the hustle and bustle of the holidays kept us grounded. Wes had left early Saturday morning and I was commissioned with getting to the airport by myself. Speaking of Wes, the gangster got his multi engine rating this weekend (he can fly planes with two engines! Wait, we don’t have a plane with two engines… oh well!). He impressed his FAA examiner by completing the practical test faster and more competently than any other student the examiner had seen. What a show off.

Anyhoodle, this post is about me, not my strong, capable, handsome chunk of a man who possesses unparalleled problem solving and time management skills. So I arrive at the airport and am tying my shoes just as Mr. Instructor shows up, destroying my plans to have the airplane checked and ready before Mr. Instructor showed up. Guess I need to work on my time management skills. I’ll ask Wes about that. We pull the plane out of the hangar and I remind Mr. I that this is only my fifth lesson and that I haven’t done any flying since our last lesson. I was feeling a little nervous, but didn’t want to say it outright. I believe you shouldn’t let anybody smell your fear. It’s counterproductive.

It was a cloudy day, so Mr. Instructor decided we’d stick to flying the pattern as opposed to practicing ground reference maneuvers, which would have been the day’s curriculum. For whatever reason, pulling up to the runway threshold and getting ready for takeoff wasn’t as overwhelming as it had seemed before. Maybe it was because there were no other planes waiting to takeoff behind us, or because the skies were releasing good vibes, but the checklist then lights, camera, action and full throttle went off without a hitch. We were airborne and setting up to fly the pattern.

Flying the pattern is basically circling around the airport in an established route and altitude. Each airport will have their own specific traffic pattern and altitude requirements. The altitude for Camarillo’s pattern 875 ft. I’m not sure if 875 ft. seems high or low to you, but climbing out at full throttle, we were hitting 500 ft. within 30 seconds, at which point I would have to turn left crosswind and reduce the throttle, then 10 seconds later make another left turn to fly upwind and reduce the throttle even more because BAMN we were already at 875 ft. To sum it up: flying the pattern happens fast! Which is why we made at least 15 loops in the pattern. And you know what that means: 15 loops = 15 landings. Sweet lordy, there is nothing more fun than landing.

Mr. I: You’re coming in a little fast. Reduce the throttle a bit.
Me: Ok.
Mr. I: Aim for the numbers. No, pull your noise up a little bit.
Me: Ok.
Mr. I: Now you need more throttle. Just a little.
Me: Ok.
Mr. I: Steady, steady, steady. Whoa your sink rate is too high.
Me (unsaid): I have no idea what you’re talking about! This plane is landing itself!
Mr. I: Good, good. Now let it come into ground effect. Down nice and easy.
Me (unsaid): Seriously. Who is landing this plane? I don’t know what I’m doing! It’s not listening to me!
Mr. I: Nice. You landed that one yourself!
Me (unsaid): Landed it myself? Wow, this is dangerous.

After all that pattern work, Mr. I and I decided to take a nice flight along the coast for the last 30 minutes of our lesson. I was curious if we could see the remains of the landslide which has closed portions of PCH for the past couple of weeks. That little flight along the coast really changed my perspective on flying. I felt in total control: I was keeping our altitude at a steady 500 ft., monitoring airspeed and plotting our course. It was the first time where I felt that Mr. I was my passenger and I was his pilot, not the other way around. I could go anywhere I wanted! The freedom! The independence! It was awesome. Mr. I just sat there and pointed out the houses along PCH he would buy if he had that kind of money. He didn’t correct me or tamper with my flying. He also took my picture.

It’s nice to end a flying lesson on a good note. Oh, wait. I did taxi the plane up to the hangar “too close to my brand new Mercedes! Now it’s going to have a bunch of pebble scratches and marks on it and it’s brand new! That’s not how we do things here at Camarillo. You need to try to be considerate.” That’s what the old man in the hangar across the way told us of after our flight. Can you imagine? A car getting scratched? That’s quite positively the worst thing that could happen in the whole world! Butthead.

The End.

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