Guest Post: First Time Flying

I’ve never had a guest blog post before, but here’s the first one. My first passenger has written up a post for me on his experience on Monday. It was both my first time taking a passenger, and his first time flying. I hadn’t realized it before what an honour it is to be the first pilot to take someone up. Other pilots tell me that even if it’s a stranger, it creates a special bond between the pilot and the first time flyer. I’m very glad I got to do this with him. But without further ado, my awesomely supportive husband, Nathan:

I never really gave flying a whole lot of thought before Lindsay started this adventure. Sure, I knew intellectually that people flew, but I had never directly come into contact with it before. We never traveled much when I was younger so I just never ended up flying anywhere. Believe me it’s not a real difficult feat when you don’t vacation much. I’ve always had a bit of a fear about heights so I naturally assumed that flying be something was a little scary. So I had managed to get to 30 without every leaving terra firma, I knew that once Lindsay started flying it would only be a matter of time until I had to fly too, but I managed to not think about it too much. Which in retrospect was probably fairly difficult to do considering how much Linds talked about various facets of flying.

You gotta give him credit – a Cessna 152 is hardly the least frightening introduction to flying. It’s really, really small, and with the windows all around, it’s way more real than being in a commercial jet.

Once she had her license I officially became the person she wanted to take up first. I’d like to say that I managed to do a pretty job keeping cool about it, though it became a little harder as the actual day in question got closer. She was just so proud of herself. I was proud of her too, and still am, so I did my best to swallow my misgivings and be supportive. Anyone who hasn’t flown in a small craft before might not realize all the boring stuff that goes into it. First you check in at the desk, then you fill out some forms, and finally you check out the aeroplane itself. Since it needed fuel it took about an hour before we went up in the air. That gave me a little while to get bored, and to actually get a little used to the idea of going up.

Now that I was finally in the Cessna I expected to be a little more nervous than I was. Maybe it was the earlier boredom but I was perhaps a little excited. It was probably another five or ten minutes before we took off, so Lindsay had a chance to go over few things, which I can’t really say that I remember at all.

Yeah, they say for every hour of flying, there’s an hour of paperwork. Sign out the plane, check the plane out, get fuel, do weight and balance, get in the plane, startup checks, taxi, run-up checks, pre-takeoff checks, ask ATC for takeoff clearance – so many things to do, by the time ATC said “Kilo Tango Juliet, cleared for takeoff,” and I opened the throttle to full power, Nathan asked me, “So what are we doing now?”

Then all too soon we were taxing onto the runway and preparing to takeoff. I think that I closed my eyes for the moment of takeoff and I remember clutching at the handhold on the window and under the seat. You know there really isn’t much to hang onto inside the cockpit. I felt a little queasy as we gained altitude, but I was able to watch a little, which was an improvement. When Linds started to talk to me, I think I started to calm down a little and there were moments that actually started to enjoy the flight. I had been worried about having problems with the changing altitude, but that didn’t seem to be an issue, which is probably a good sign for my overall health.

Needless to say the view was amazing – rural Manitoba in all it’s Summer colours. Everything was so small that it was difficult to tell what a lot things on the ground even were, and I got the very real sense of what people based those model train sets off of. I was getting to the point where I was okay as long as the plane didn’t do something unexpected, or at least something that I didn’t suspect. I think that she slipped on me a couple times, and second time I wasn’t ready for it and freaked just a little. Though I’m told that I really didn’t say anything, only sort of grabbed at the air with one hand. The flight actually reminded me a lot of being a motor boat going really fast so it’s sort of skipping across the waves. That’s how it felt to me as we were in the sky going God’s only know how fast. It seemed pretty fast when you looked at the ground and the tiny cars on it.

It was a bit of a learning experience for me too – knowing how anxious my passenger was made me so much more conscious of the movement of the plane, and I tried to make sure it didn’t make any more sudden movements than I could help, and learned to make sure I told him before I did something. I’m probably a lot less attentive to the smaller movements when I’m solo, or even with Sandra, because I know neither of us are going to get startled or uncomfortable with the normal movements, but with a passenger, there’s pressure to make the flight more comfortable and enjoyable.

Then Linds decided that we should do a steep turn, and wheedled me until I agreed to it. She totally could have messed with me here, and I’m overjoyed that she chose not to. I actually found the experience of being pushed back in your seat with ground nearly parallel at one side to be enjoyable one. It reminded me of being on a roller coaster.

I decided if I was going to be a commercial pilot, I should act like a professional when taking passengers up. Except my Dad. I’ll mess with my Dad, he’s earned it. (Insert evil laugh, and read anticipation for when i get my aerobtics rating….) But Nathan, no I won’t mess with him – I want him to come up with me again, after all.

Then it was time for us to go back, and I dreaded the actual landing the entire way back. Which it turned out was probably least scary part of the whole thing. All we did was just sort of glide down, and land. It was really an anticlimactic ending to whole adventure.

Ha – that’s how a good landing should be. I remember landings with Sandra in really rough winds, and thinking, how on earth are we going to get this thing on the ground again without being smashed into the runway! Sandra’s a pro, of course though. I’m glad I waited for a day with nice calm winds to take Nathan though, and I’m glad I could make the landing as smooth as I managed. I’ve certainly made far worse landings, but they’re getting much more consistent.

Once I was back on the ground again I felt really strange almost like my entire body was vibrating a little. I’m still not really sure how to describe the feeling other than to call it supremely odd. It wasn’t really uncomfortable or painful it was just strange. Overall I think that the entire experience was a mix of moments of terror, awe, and excitement. I hope that next time I can focus on the positives a little more. The experience left me profoundly proud over how far Linds has come in such a short time, and cemented all of it firmly in reality for me. Though looking back on the experience it’s hard to see it as something really happened to me, the memory is just surreal.


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