Shouting into the Storm Rantings, ramblings, observations and musings from the insipid to the sublime

Flying High

Sunday, December 05, 2004 :::
Earlier this week I took my first flying lesson. That's right - someone allowed me, sight unseen, to pilot an aircraft in the air.

I had received a 30 minute demo flight for my birthday. With the weather being particularly nice for November, and with a day off, I decided that Monday 11/29 would work fantastic. I have fond memories of watching the planes out at Norwood's Wiggins Memorial airport. It was particularly exciting thinking I'd get to do just that.

I arrived at Manassas Aviation. My instructor was Robin, a slight gentleman with an accent I could only guess as being Swedish. The waiting room was a trip. Flight stuff everywhere - including barf bags. We went over the flight plan, what we'd be doing, and Robin gave me my headsets and flight bag. I felt downright official.

As we walked out the tarmac, Robin points over to our plane, "That's what we're taking up." "That" is a Piper Tomahawk. At a mere 9 feet tall and 22 feet long, with a bubbled cockpit, it looked like a lawnmower with wings. Pre-flight checklist included walking around the plane to ensure the aerleons and rudder were free of restrictions, and checking the oil. Again, we're talking a 4 cylinder engine here, not much bigger than a medium sized lawnmower.

Jumping in the plane, I was surprised how roomy it was. Both of us fit with ease, and I had plenty of head and leg room. Robin handled all communication with the tower, requesting and receiving clearance to head out to the runway. He allowed me to taxi the plane out onto the runway and wait for final clearance. His last words were "When I say go, slowly bring the throttle to full. When we hit 40 mph, start to pull up. I'll keep it straight." And with that, we were rumbling down the runway. Robin kept it straight, I eased up on the yoke, and up in the air we went. Very smooth, nothing like what I expected.

Robin let me take it up 2000 feet, where we proceeded to practice basic turns and keeping the aircraft level. This was all a little hazy, since I was half terrified of losing control of the plane, and half blissed out at being up in a plane. I must admit, the Tomahawk felt great, very easy to fly. I've read that it is actually more difficult to handle than the Cessna training planes, which makes you learn more. Be that as it may, I want one. Now.

After 20 minutes or so, it was time to head back. We circled around until we were headed for the airport. "See that white dot? That's the tower. Aim for it." Robin requested landing permission, and we received it. Following Robin's instruction, I angled the plane to fly parallel to the runway. Once past it, we turned 90 degrees, then another 90 degrees, lining us up on the center line. By this point, we had drastically lowered out altitude, and it seemed as if we were right on top of the strip. A flair of the nose, kill the engine, and we glided in for a gentle landing.

I would sign up for lessons in a heartbeat, if I had the money. I guess for now I'll have to stick with Microsoft FlightSim.

::: posted by Chris at 4:41 PM

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