Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Skyhawk Adventure

Like I mentioned in Monday's post, flying a plane (challenge no. 19) was beyond incredible. Though it may offend a few of my challengers, it has been my favorite challenge so far. I have been asked if this experience caused me to "conquer" my fear. My answer is best depicted through metaphor: It's as if my fear was a giant grizzly bear in attack-mode and now it is simply a kitten lounging on a windowsill. It hasn't gone away completely, but is less likely to make me pee my pants.

We were supposed to fly at 9:00 a.m., but because of the evil morning weather in Atlanta, we set out at 1:00 p.m. Side note: I must extend an apology to my good friend Charity for the 20-minute car ride to Peachtree Dekalb Airport. My nerves were doing the talking. Your patience was astounding and greatly appreciated.

Upon arrival at Skybound Aviation, I was greeted by my instructor, Kerwin Day, also known as the nicest man I have ever met. He has been flying since 1966 and has more than 18,500 hours. I was in great hands.

As we made our way outside, I asked Kerwin what exactly I would be allowed to do once we were airborne. Steer? Take pictures? He replied, "Oh, you're going to be doing everything. I'm just along for the ride." Gulp.

Making our way out to the plane.

The Skyhawk (Cessna 172).

Kerwin took about a half hour to familiarize me with the plane we would be flying. I learned what most of the major components are called and what purpose they each serve. Kerwin would always let me guess what each part was called before he told me. My guesses were things like "Flappy Thing" and "Flux Capacitor." The correct answers were things like "Fuselage" and "Rotor."


Finally we climbed into the plane and buckled ourselves in. At this point my heart was beating fast, but more out of excitement and curiosity rather than fear. Kerwin went over all of the important devices inside the cockpit before we started it up and started taxiing. After checking a few key functions, we were cleared to take off. At the start of the runway, Kerwin took me through, step by step. First I pushed in the throttle all the way, and the plane went forward and started building up speed. Then I simply pulled back on the wheel.

And suddenly, I was flying. Here are a few adjectives to describe this moment: exhilarating, empowering, breathtaking, freaking awesome.

We cruised around at about 125 mph at an altitude of 3,000 feet, first flying south to the downtown area, circling around Turner field, then heading toward Stone Mountain and back to PDK. Kerwin served as both my flight instructor and tour guide of the skies, providing interesting tidbits about what we were flying over.

 View of Emory University from 3,000-ish feet. 

 Stone Mountain.

After about thirty minutes of flying time and me meeting my exclamatory outburst quota for the year, we landed. Kerwin told me what to do as I shakily followed his instructions. Afterward I gave myself some applause and was nothing but smiles. Seriously, I couldn't stop smiling. That grizzly bear of fear started gathering his belongings the minute we touched down.

The second most exciting part of the day: Getting my certificate. And yes, this masterpiece shall be framed:

I shall end with a quote from Kerwin the Kind, who said the followed after we turned off the engine: "We always feel like we have to say something profound after a flight. So, once again we have defied the laws of gravity and overcame the forces of superstition."

The superstition is that women can't fly. But as I have clearly outlined above, we most certainly can.

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