I had a birthday recently and to commemorate my 54th trip around the sun, our oldest son gave me something he thought might get me high.
And so it did! Indeed, I was clearly floating after my Discovery Flight at Quest Aviation.
This was an extremely thoughtful gift, as I have always been fascinated with flying. I'm the type of airline passenger who grabs the window seat and spends the entire flight with his nose pressed against the glass. This is in stark contrast to my wife, who sees flying as a form of torment. She is the sort of airline passenger who will spend the entire flight with her eyes scrunched shut as she grips the armrest and mutters, "Tell me when it's over!"
We recently journeyed to Marv Skie Lincoln County Airport to redeem my Discovery Flight certificate. I became acquainted with Mark Isackson, a very nice young fellow who is a flight instructor at Quest Aviation.
The aircraft we were to fly - a Cessna Skyhawk - was available and within minutes we were walking across the tarmac for my ride up into the sky. Which was good, as it didn't allow any time for second thoughts.
I've read a fair amount about flying and have picked up a little aviation lingo. I thought I'd impress Mark by casually using some aviator jargon during the preflight inspection.
"The empennage seems to be in good working order," I said.
"That's the landing gear," said Mark.
"Oh. Well, the ailerons appear to be functioning properly."
"That's the door latch."
"I see. So, does that spinny thingamabob up front need to be cleaned? I can take care of that for you."
"No," said Mark. "But you can fetch us some prop wash after we've landed."
Following a thorough inspection, we climbed into our mighty steed. In front of me was a confusing constellation of gauges and dials and gizmos. I was able to divine the purpose of some of them - the fuel gauge got my especial attention - but the majority of the instruments remained a mystery. If their functions included intimidating poseurs, they were doing their jobs extremely well.
Mark had me don a set of high-tech headphones that were equipped with a boom mike. Wearing this outfit made me feel very aeronautical.
The engine roared to life and we lined up for takeoff. Power was applied and we began to hurtle down the runway, faster and faster, until we reached that sweet moment when the rumble of the wheels ceases and the ride suddenly becomes smooth. Airborne!
As the Cessna clawed its way skyward, Mark began to explain, over our cool aviator headphones, how an airplane flies. Not the lift and gravity, drag and thrust stuff. He waxed eloquent about how one input affects all the others, using language that made me think of a conductor directing orchestra.
He then uttered the most shocking words I've ever heard: "Here, you fly it some."
I planted my feet firmly on the pedals and gripped the yoke as if I were preparing for an arm wrestling match.
"Try making a turn," said Mark.
I gently twisted the yoke and mashed a pedal and Whoa! We were turning! This was so totally and absolutely cool!
Despite my preconceived notions regarding this event, we didn't promptly plummet from the sky. Quite the opposite. Mark urged me to make more turns, which I did with ever-increasing lan.
At one point Mark indicated some dashboard doodad and said, "Here's where you adjust the trim."
"I'll admit I'm getting a bit whiskery," I said, "But I don't think that now is the time to discuss personal grooming."
Turns out he meant the elevator trim. Aha! That made infinitely more sense!
As our flight neared its end, I began to stall for more time. This gave me an idea.
"What, exactly, is a stall?" I asked.
Mark was happy to demonstrate. He idled the engine and eased the yoke toward his chest. The nose rose and it became eerily quiet in the cockpit, save for the disquieting shriek of the stall alarm.
The Skyhawk's nose suddenly dropped and the view out the windshield abruptly changed from ether to earth! I felt that heart-in-your-mouth sensation normally associated with rollercoasters. Mark expertly reapplied power and we quickly resumed level flight.
Two words involuntarily escaped my lips: "Whee!" and "Again!"
My Discovery Flight was done all too soon. After a silky landing, I sauntered loftily back to the office where my wife waited.
As I entered the office, she arose from her chair and asked, "Is it over?"
And I couldn't help but notice the deep finger-shaped imprints in the armrest of her chair.