Ladies and gentleman, this is your stewardess speaking. We regret any inconvenience the sudden cabin movement might have caused. This is due to periodic air pockets we encountered. There's no reason to be alarmed and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane? ~ Elaine, from the movie Airplane.
Getting a little bit of cabin fever lately, I decided that I needed something to break up the days where I just write or do the things that have to do with work.
I was in need of a little R and R (though this also includes ‘work’ as my motive was to have something fun to write about).
I haven’t been to see Smokey in a while but I like to plan that when I have the whole day to spend - and lately that has not been an opportunity. So what little adventure could I partake in? I have had a few invites to do some fun things - one being to fly.
Oh, of course, I would not be flying the plane myself… I have no desire to be a pilot. In fact, if given the opportunity to take the yoke, I believe I would recoil and respectfully decline. But to go flying and see Chattanooga from a bird’s eye view with a pilot friend of mine would be fun.
My friend Jack Mullinax set up our flight itinerary and he messaged me asking me how much I weighed. I thought about this for a moment.
Do I swallow my pride and tell him my weight and go with him, do I fudge on my weight and risk something catastrophic happening if he reserved a plane that held less weight or do I decline and say “thanks, but no thanks”.
A man …asking me my weight. Thankfully this wasn’t a date type deal. Jack is a friend and I was just borrowing him from his wife Karla, to soak up a bit of adventure. I swallowed my pride and gave Jack my weight but swore him to secrecy.
I knew not to tell Mama that I was going flying or to post on Facebook what I would be doing. I would wait until after I went to tell people. For some reason, whenever I would do something exciting a few people around me would feel the need to protect me against myself, telling me all the negatives about something and sometimes would talk me out of doing it. Then I have those friends who would tell me to go for it – (but they couldn’t tell Mama!) I have learned Nike’s slogan for my life, “Just Do It”.
I met Jack at the Dallas Bay Skypark. He had the N61655 light plane ready. Jack is a born instructor; he was telling me all about the plane. Some of it was interesting and some of it I just threw out of my head – my brain will only hold so much. He had to show me how to get into the plane. Being short, it was a bit tricky for me. Once I was in, I saw a seatbelt that reminded me of my Mama’s old station wagon when I was a little girl. It had a huge metal buckle and separate belts that went across the waist and shoulder.
Jack helped me figure it out. He grabbed his check list and began going over everything before take-off. It was cool to hear him spout off pilot jargon, but it was extremely hot inside the plane. I felt my hair get all sweaty on the back of my neck. After Jack went over the checklist, he then started touching things on the control panel. I thought we would never get in the sky or that I would melt before we did!
I am a jokester and I saw a red button that said “high voltage”. I had no idea what it was but I thought it sounded kind of dangerous so I had asked Jack if I could push it. He then went over what I could touch – which was one thing… the a/c control. I was so hot, I wanted to touch it right then but I knew Jack was hot too and there may be a reason why we could not turn the air on until we were off the ground.
Jack finally started the plane and we headed for the runway – which looked very small. How he would get the plane off the ground with just a little piece of road was going to be interesting. I had flown twice in my life, once to Ft. Lauderdale and once to New York. I wasn’t scared but there is something about being upfront in the cockpit with the airplane’s windshield being up close and personal.
I saw scratches and markings on the windshield and wondered how many birds got hit. I was certain that the clouds didn’t make those scratches. The propeller whirred and the engine got loud. Jack had handed me my headset with microphone to put on so that we could communicate. The plane turned to face the runway and I braced myself. Just that feeling between being on the ground and lifting off the ground is pretty cool. We were up!
As we climbed higher, I felt my ears pop just like when I was in the GM building in New York going up to the 42nd floor. I had gum so I just chewed harder. I mentioned my ears popping to Jack and I think he was afraid that I would get sick. He had warned me about how flying can make some people sick and get their equilibrium off. Jack didn’t know me that well… I liked when my equilibrium was off. I always loved all the spinning rides at an amusement park. No, I would not get sick – I loved the feeling of being so high! I especially loved the tickling in my stomach when Jack would turn the plane and we sort of tilted! I liked flying!
I saw patches of land which made the towns look like a quilt pieced together - all different sorts and sizes. I saw a few neighborhoods that looked new and had swimming pools. I am assuming it would have been an upscale-type neighborhood that would have been really nice but from up in the sky I saw how all the houses looked alike and they were in a cluster. Even if they were huge homes it was not as appealing from the sky.
What appealed to me were the big farms with lots of land. Some of the homes on the farms were big and some were not – but to see all the land was just beautiful. There was a pond that looked like a small patch of water from the sky and cows were wading in it. They looked like ants in a line for a spilled coke on the ground. The sky, the mountains and hills were so beautiful to see from up high.
All the trees looked like broccoli.
The lakes and river looked like streams. The way a globe of the world looks that shows water and land – this is what I was seeing from the plane. Sometimes, we would fly low enough for me to make out what it was I was looking at but while up higher, it was easy to feel detached from everything. Being in the plane with all the windows closed seemed almost like riding in a car. It started to feel normal.
I reminded myself that I was up in the sky with only the wind (and other technical things) holding us up. I thought about a bird flying into the propeller or the turbine engines. Why would I do this? Because Jack was such a smooth pilot that it just didn’t feel dangerous and I wanted to make sure even though I was in good hands and God was watching over us, that I remembered that I was doing something extraordinary.
I think there is an adventurous side to all girls. And this was a lot more fun than the dating site adventure I tried out last week. With that, it was easy to change my mind and back out of it – with this, I was 2,000 feet in the air at 120 mph and there was no changing my mind. Sometimes it is easy to back out of something scary… the unknown… but when you put yourself in a position where you can’t back up – you just do it and yell ‘Geronimo!’ – that is when you feel like you are living your life!
We flew over Cleveland and landed at Dayton. When Jack lined up the plane with the runway and we were coming in for a landing – I held my breath. To be that close to the front windshield and seeing the nose of the plane lined up to land was exciting. When you think of an automobile on the interstate hydroplaning or having a tire blow out you know how dangerous just that can be. So landing a plane was exciting to me knowing that we could crash if the wheel things didn’t pop out or if one of them had a flat or maybe if we hit a rock in the road… okay maybe not, but it was fun to imagine that I was in danger.
I think I let out an “eek” when we landed because of all the thoughts going on in my head but Jack made a good landing. I could see bug guts on the windshield - some quite colorful.
We went back up in the air and headed back to Dallas Bay. I was busy snapping pictures with my cell phone. Sometimes I couldn’t really see what I was taking a picture of - I just positioned the camera and snapped away at several things. I was at a pretty odd angle and I asked Jack what would happen if I opened the window. He grabbed my hand and put it in my lap and then he pointed vehemently at the a/c control and said… “That! That - is all you can touch!” (I think I made him nervous). Maybe the danger was not in my flying with Jack, but with Jack flying with ME!
The second time we landed was even smoother. Jack was a pro. Taking off the headset brought me back to reality and everything was normal. I met Dan Boles, a flight instructor, and saw Sheldon Rogers waxing a plane. Jack sent a text to his wife to let her know we had landed. I thanked Jack for taking me up and I headed to my Jeep. After sweating the heat and wearing a headset my hair was a mess. But I didn’t care… I flew!
When I started up my Jeep, I fixed the a/c vents to blow directly on me. All of a sudden my imagination took off. I was back in the plane and I was the pilot! When I reached the interstate that was when I was up in the air, basking in my experience and trying to make it last as long as I could. Then I headed toward US 27 and had to drive within the concrete walls closing to a narrow space (this was the runway where I would come down for a landing!) I giggled at this little mini-adventure I was having with myself in my Jeep. I landed back to my apartment safe and sound.
To see video of all photos go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2sSJaVb0wY&feature=BFa&list=HL1338909362