My grandfather always wanted me to be a pilot.
A mechanic for Pan Am, he was always talking about what a wonderful life it would be for me to captain an airplane. My grandpa had many talents, but convincing me to fly a plane was not one of them. However, he did give me an appreciation for aviation and a love for commercial airlines that is normally saved for gay men. (Check out http://pamann.com/).
Charlie always dreamed of being a pilot. Charlie would have made my grandfather proud. After affixing an old propeller to our wall, I knew it was time for Charlie to take his first flight as a pilot.
Being super supportive, I woke up early and drove with him down to Florida’s Plant City Airport. Expecting to stay on the ground, I began to pull out my Harry Potter novel (yes, I’m reading it now – don’t be jealous) when the instructor stopped me and handed me a headset.
“You’re coming too,” he insisted, “someone needs to take pictures.”
I texted my mom goodbye and headed outside for the plane’s safety check.
I tried to ignore the fact that the plane was clearly old enough for my grandfather to have serviced it (he was born in 1912 and lived to be 97) and watched the instructor check the fuel level.
He then did a hi-tech demonstration on how a plane turns. It came with sounds and everything.
Finally, I had to get in the back seat. I held my breath. Charlie, of course, got in the pilot seat on the left in front of me!
Then came the first hiccup.
Charlie went to start the plane…nothing. He tried three more times and it wouldn’t turn on. We decided we needed to get in a new plane and Charlie decided to try one more time as the instructor was getting out….it turned on. I felt perfectly safe…
The instructor told Charlie what to do to taxi down the runway by himself. Then it was time for takeoff. Again, Charlie was left to do it all on his own. As we began to speed down the runway, all of a sudden there was a loud noise and wind started whipping my face. Charlie’s window popped open mid take off. We aborted the take off, closed the window and circled around for another try.
Again, I felt totally safe…
You can tell by my calm demeanor in this video of our second take off….
(Really – turn on your sound for a treat).
This isn’t just any take off. This is actually a take off done by Charlie! Supposedly take off and landing are the most dangerous times of a flight. Who better than Charlie – who has never flown a plane before – to control this extremely dangerous situation. Fortunately, I trust Charlie and his hundreds of hours put into flight simulation. But this instructor apparently would have been fine putting his life in anyone’s hands. That’s not a great sign.
The plane was so light that I felt weightless bouncing around with every gust of wind. I was simultaneously excited….and helpless.
The instructor-with-a-death-wish calmly talked to me about all the large fancy houses we were flying over while he left Charlie in 100% control of the plane. Every once in a while he would ask Charlie to turn a certain amount or take us up or down in altitude. Charlie did everything perfectly and the instructor was continually impressed.
Instructor blabbered on while Charlie was too busy flying the plane to listen and I was too busy thinking about how I was too young to die. Just as I was making a list of all the people I would call if I lived through the flight, another loud POW – the window had flown open again – mid-flight! I screamed and Charlie and I simultaneously reached out the window at 1800 feet to pull it shut.
By that point, I had had more than my fair share of adrenaline for the day and I was so happy when we were landing. This was the only part of the flight where the instructor helped out.
Happy to have survived, Charlie now really has the flying bug. We definitely have a future pilot on our hands, so any advice or extra tranquilizers would be appreciated.
I’m very proud of Charlie for acing his first lesson!