Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Flying Visit

"I'm flying to your home town tomorrow!" says the specialist I've just met, "would you like to come?" After checking that he is serious (two or three times), I reply with an enthusiastic "yes!" and without much further conversation, he hands me his mobile number and then carries on with his lunch.

And so the next morning he picks me up in his private plane, shows me how to close the door, and we are off. This plane is about the size of a car ... four seats, one engine. He jokes about the fact that his boat has more horsepower, and luckily my laugh comes out more surprised than terrified, so we are cool. The weather is fine and the little plane does its job smoothly, and about 20 minutes into that first flight, I am convinced that I will one day own a plane.

We are 5,500 feet above sea level on a Sunday, but I am ever the good student, and he the specialist ... I ask a thousand questions about his plane, he patiently answers them all in great detail. He points out landmarks which I pretend to be able to identify - "ah yes, I can see that town in the distance". I ask if the blocks at my feet are just footrests or if they actually do something, and he encourages me to press one ("gently though, just gently"). I gingerly press my left foot down, and the plane veers ever so slightly to the left ... I steer the plane! He then instructs me to please remove my foot so that autopilot can steer us back.

But they are brave, those country specialists, and on the return trip he decides that we probably won't die if I briefly take control.

"Have you ever flown a plane before?" he asks, then, seeing the look on my face, "No of course you haven't ... would you like to?" So I take hold of the controls, he turns off the autopilot and I am flying the plane! The autopilot makes it look so easy ... my flight course follows a serpentine loop as I continually over-correct our path, fail to account for crosswind, and drift off-course. He offers to put it back on autopilot, "if you're getting sick of it", but I am determined, and I keep following my wavering course. He then instructs me that I have lost 1,000 feet and should probably start climbing again, and it is about this point that I realise I am probably not a pilot yet. But he is a good instructor, and we are soon back up where we belong, weaving our way back to the airport. He offers several more times to put it back on autopilot, and I eventually acknowledge his subtle hints and relinquish the controls.

One day, I am going to own a plane.