DAY 67: Piloting a plane

6 Nov

I like the way they've tethered it like an old goat.

MY instructor’s name is Andrew, and as we’re yakking away, 7000ft over Bendigo, I ask him why he got the urge to fly. He says he’d always harboured a secret wish to, but thought it too expensive for the likes of him. Then his brother died at 49 and his wife nearly followed suit. That’s when Andrew philosophised you can’t take it with you when you go. He’s been taking people like me for joyrides at $120 an hour ever since.

Upon my arrival at the flying school, Andrew offers me a biscuit and a cup of tea, and draws unfathomable diagrams on a whiteboard. I like him; he’s funny. Then he walks me around a tiny Tecnam P 92 Echo Super so we can check things aren’t going to fall off or fly open.

Climbing in is an intimate experience. I have to fold myself into the left-hand driver’s seat (thankfully this thing has dual controls), and there’s not much in the way of elbowroom. We run through the checks and crank up the propeller, then Andrew gets me to steer us down the runway before he gets us up in the air.

We get some sharp bumps and knocks off kilter as we’re on our way up, which may be “just the atmosphere”, but has me shutting my eyes and gripping the seat with one hand all the same. Andrew’s a trusting sort, as he gets me to keep hold of the joystick with the other hand, even though I might feasibly jerk it in fright if I was a spaz.

Once we clear most of the clouds, though, we’re okay, and weirdly my fear of heights doesn’t kick in – I swore more in my driving lesson.

Andrew sits back with a grin and tells me to just go wherever I want, so I point the thing towards Echuca, avoiding bloody great clouds that loom up here and there. You gotta treat clouds almost like solid objects when you’re in a plane this small, as they’ll throw you around a bit. Oh, and you can’t see.

You steer with both your feet and your hand, but it feels almost impossible to flip this thing over. Every now and then, Andrew fires up the throttle so that the nose veers upwards, and gets me to correct it. Same the other way. On our way back down he shows me how to hug clouds like you would a roundabout, and he goes skimming around one at a cracking pace, like a gleeful kid.

We land with the same grace as a pelican – legs akimbo and arse first – but that’s Andrew’s doing, not mine, and it’s just because the wind comes off the trees and chucks you around. I’m pleased to note my knees aren’t knocking a bit when I clamber out.

Keeper? Going back next week, as a matter of fact.

One Response to “DAY 67: Piloting a plane”

  1. Stacey November 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    I am so proud of you…..your flying!! Your Flying!

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