OK, I am not a daredevil nor have I any aspirations to be a pilot. Then what am I doing flying a plane you ask. Is it something off my bucket list or a fool’s rush to escape the daily grind? Whatever it was, I am glad I did it and lived to tell the tale.
It started with the idea of doing something rather than buying something for my birthday. And since I had been lamenting for the longest time about neglecting the adventure quotient in our lives, I decided to act on it and jumped in the car. The drive was short. In 20 minutes we were in an airstrip that was right off a busy intersection. There were a few Cessna’s parked. It didn’t seem that an aircraft could taxi that strip of a runway much less take off or land. But then an aircraft whirred out of nowhere and landed perfectly making a U turn before taxiing off to the docks. Well, that looked neat and buoyed my spirits a bit.
I went in to the office and completed the formalities to take a 30-minute flight. My instructor Chang led the way to the little monster that was to be trusted with for the next 30 minutes of my life. Chang walked me through the different parts as we checked for loose rivets, flaps, brakes, engine oil level, the fuel tank – which is located in the wings, the propeller, tires and other important things as part of the preflight inspection. Then we hopped inside to meet an array of dials, radios, GPS and various other controls for throttle, rudder, static – names that I vaguely remember encountering in my instrumentation classes or thriller novels. Things were moving fast as I had a sudden urge to run out. Chang gave me a headset and we did a routine cockpit inspection. We got an all clear from the airport and started taxiing the runway with the pedals under our feet to navigate the aircraft on the centerline marked on the strip. It took some practice but I got the hang of it. Then we pushed the throttle and the engines started roaring. Chang maneuvered the joystick and the Cessna lifted off within seconds. It was the best take off ever! The aircraft was unbelievably light and I didn’t feel a thing – not even the woozy feeling of a Ferris wheel.
It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear. We could see the skylines of New York City and Philadelphia in the distance. A big blue reservoir greeted us nearby. The beauty of aircraft flying has to be the aerial views of the towns below. Stately mansions, picturesque estates with blue pools and manicured lawns; all hidden carefully behind woods and gated communities were laid bare in front of us. An equestrian riding a magnificent brown horse in circles was one of the highlights of my aerial gawking.
As we cruised to a steady altitude, Chang asked me to take over the controls and I tried to turn the aircraft slightly. The Cessna followed cue wonderfully with the slightest touch as Chang explained the ease of flying the plane. The trick is to let the air drive it and use the controls only to steer course. We looked up the horizon as the sun shone brightly over the world and I offered thanks to its Creator. At this height his presence felt closer.
The GPS showed our course and airports in the vicinity in case we needed to stop for refueling or a break. The possibility of renting a private plane as opposed to traditional airline travel lured me as we turned back towards the airport. I pulled the throttle and with Chang’s guidance we landed. As I walked off I not only felt proud of my accomplishment but also utterly grateful for experiencing the third dimension. Beats a Coach bag any day!