Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The background: In my free time, since I'm unemployed, I've been helping the owner of an awesome local business out by helping him set up and deploy a series of used IBM Point-of-Sale systems that he bought. This is kind of fun because he's a pretty cool guy and I get to learn something new, having never worked with POS systems before.
So I'm spending a few hours there on Tuesday trying to figure out how to make lights flash and receipts print and this guy, who happens to have recently earned his pilot's license, said, "Hey, I'm flying up to the Troutdale Airport tomorrow to run an errand; want to come along?"
Perhaps a little more background is necessary at this point. You see, gentle reader, I've always wanted to fly. I love flying in planes and have on my lifetime "to-do" list a big entry that says, "LEARN TO FLY A PLANE".
Now that you know that tidbit, you can probably guess that I jumped at the chance to ride in his little Cessna. (I'm guessing it's a 172.)
The trip was awesome. Flying in a small plane like that is cool; we were cruising at about 100 knots at roughly 3500 feet in the air. Compared to a commercial passenger jet which is probably doing closer to 550+ knots at 35,000 feet, the experience was so much more real: the plane would literally jump when a gust of wind came by, and we were still low enough that I could make out cars on the road. Troutdale Airport was especially fun due to the 20+ mph headwind that made taking off and landing a little more bumpy than usual.
The highlight of the trip - for me, at least - was the part in the middle. Once we had a few thousand feet of air safely between us and the ground, the pilot (sitting 4 inches to my left) simply took his hands off the controls and said, "your turn!". He pointed at Mt. Adams (this was the trip north) and said, "we want to go that way." I took up the co-pilot controls and managed to keep us headed roughly in our intended direction and he clarified all the instruments for me. It was more fun than a person should be allow to have!
The return trip was even better, since I'd had a chance to "get a feel for it" and I was no longer trying to micromanage the flight of the plane and we were consequently no longer bobbing up and down. Of course, he took care of anything complicated like taking off, landing, talking to the tower, taxiing, or anything that had a remote component of danger attached to it. I even enjoyed him showing me what "slipping" is.
I think "learning to fly" just jumped up a few places on that old "to-do" list...