Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pilot for a day

Today me and my friend went out on our first experience flying a plane. It was cold day (around 45 deg f) and partly clouds. After small briefing about key aircraft instruments and practicing for about half an hour on simulator, we were ready for our maiden flight. With trainer on the side and my friend on the back seat, I took control of small 4- Seater around 40 year old Piper PA -28 ( Starting from Van Nuys airport for a short 40 mins flight, we passed around LA downtown, Hollywood sign, Griffith park, and Pasadena to finally land at El Monte airport.

Personally, the take off was most scary of all. With takeoff speed around 60 knots - approx 70 mph which is not all that fast, and no horizon in sight for few mins (seemed much longer) and the plane gaining fast elevation, matched only by rising heart rate, the sheer exhilaration of takeoff was very soon replaced by the doubt and fear of placing trust on small and not so powerful and old piece of machinery. It made me wonder if this little escapade was well worth the risk and this adventure was nothing but a big mistake. Fortunately, once we leveled off around 2000 ft, the flight was much smoother and enjoyable. Sitting in small box floating in the air, it was strange feeling of freedom and helplessness, excitement and anxiety that hard to describe in words. Still occasional shake and slide of the plane would bring back the worst of fears. 

The path around the beautiful landmarks would have been more enjoyable if not for the tension of keeping eye on instruments and trying hard to keep the plane steady and level while listening to trainer's instructions. The flight path along the San Gabriel mountain added bit of drama with increased plane shake due to wind and pressure differential, as told to us by our trainer, aggravated by amateur overcompensation by me. The landing was also bit of a stress, but with trainer doing most of heavy lifting, we were able to land safe and sound to live to see another day.

My friend took over the pilot seat on the way back and I was able to relax and enjoy the view better. I couldn't help but think of all those pioneers of aviation and their extraordinary courage and unrelenting quest that led us not only experience flying like a bird but also made the world so much smaller.

Overall great experience, highly recommend for anyone seeking some adrenaline rush and lots of fun.

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