Monday, March 9, 2009

Flying without feathers is not easy

I spent a large portion of yesterday flying around. A guy, Ted, who Will and I have known for awhile through his work is a recreational pilot, and he invited me to come along on a flight with him. I still haven't used my gift certificate for a flight lesson that Will gave me, and I haven't been up in a little plane since I was pretty young, so I decided it'd be fun to study ahead a little bit before my lesson :-)

I'll admit, I was kind of nervous. Those planes are just SO tiny, it was easy to imagine them being tossed to and fro on every wind current. I didn't used to get airsick, but turbulence seems to bother me more these days, plus I just get nervous about the niggling fact that you could fall out of the sky and plummet to your death if anything went wrong with the plane.

We flew down to the Shenandoah airport in Virginia, used the bathroom and got a drink of water, then flew back home. While we were flying over the Shenandoah valley, Ted let me fly the plane for a bit. To be honest, I was expecting it to be pretty easy. I know landing and takeoff are quite difficult, but you always see movies where pilots are relaxing and chatting and getting up to walk around while the plane pretty much flies itself. I guess that may be true for big commercial airplanes (or maybe I just shouldn't base my expectations on what I see in movies), but flying that little plane was hard, y'all! It felt just like trying to drive a big car on a sheet of ice, except that the plane can also slide up and down and roll side to side. Oh, and there are also giant invisible speedbumps that you could hit at any time. In a car you can basically hold the wheel straight and the car will keep going straight. In a plane, the wind is constantly turning you one way or another, so you have to keep adjusting in order to continue flying in a straight line. We also hit the biggest bump of turbulence of the whole flight while I was flying, and it scared the crap out of me! The landing at Shenandoah was harrowing as well...I'm glad Ted's such a good pilot because there was a crazy crosswind and he had to pretty much keep our right wing aimed at the ground until our wheels touched down to keep from getting blown off the runway.

What surprised me the most, I think, is how alone you are up in the air. I thought every plane had one of those screens like you see in control towers that shows if there are other planes nearby, but nope! There isn't even a control tower at all at our local airport, the pilots just have to play nice and take turns. When you're in the air you just have to look for other planes and hope you see them before they're too close! We passed a guy doing acrobatics shortly after we took off, and I have no idea how you could be doing dives and rolls like that without knowing for sure if there are other planes nearby. Plus Obama was at Camp David on Sunday but he left in the afternoon, so we had to be mindful of the boundaries, which change based on whether he's there or not. It was a lot to think about, and I wasn't even the pilot!

All in all, I enjoyed myself, and I am looking forward to my intro flight lesson. I am hoping that once my instructor has explained the physics of it all (i.e. when you turn this control it makes this part of the plane move which causes your flight path to change in this way...) I will feel more in control. I don't know if I'll ever feel comfortable enough in the air to consider pursuing a pilot's license, but we'll see I guess.

And on a completely different note, can I just say that it is TOTALLY unfair that we've only had about 3 warm days and there aren't even any green things out yet and already my allergies are giving me fits. Grrr.

And now, if you'll excuse me, daylight savings time has caught me unawares once again and despite the fact that it's still bright and sunny outside I really need to start making dinner! Emily is watching "Roar show" (Lion King) so I'd better get moving while she's distracted.

No comments: