samedi 3 avril 2010

First flight

Yesterday, I got to go fly in our plane for the first time.

Yes, we bought a plane - an old Cessna four-seater that could probably use a new paint job*, but a plane nonetheless!

MB had already flown in it since he was the one who brought it back to Canada from Michigan (where we bought it).

The plane had been in the 'shop' for the past month for a propeller overhaul and annual inspection. This weekend, MB had planned to take it for a test flight with the shop owner - and I got to come along. It turned out to be a beautiful first flight for me.

It felt absolutely surreal to be standing beside the plane on the tarmac, waiting for MB come out and do the pre-flight inspection. This is ours?!

I saw another woman hanging out beside what I suppose was her plane, watching her husband do his pre-flight inspection. Except that unlike me, she looked bored out of her mind, like this is the kind of thing she does all the time. (Oh, and their plane was a shiny new 2009 Cirrus - I can't quite say we're in the same league!) Anyway, she certainly wasn't following her husband around asking a million questions like I was doing with MB, trying to memorize part names and remember the checklist. Their two sons were playing in the hangar. It was funny to think that one day, that's what our family weekends will look like!

It didn't occur to me to be nervous about the flight until the shop owner came out and said, "so, we'll take the longer runway, giving us a bit more leeway if anything happens... this is a plane that has had a LOT of maintenance done on it recently."

But despite that comment, I was incredibly calm. I loved every part of the flight. We could not have asked for a more beautiful, sunny day. The view I had of the island of Montreal as we ascended was amazing. I think the whole time (one hour flight!), I was grinning from ear to ear.

The only part that may have given me pause is the major (and I mean major) turbulence we hit around the collines montérégiennes (Mount Yamaska in particular). But even if my heart raced a bit, it slowed down as soon as we climbed up and out of the turbulence, and I was fine the rest of the flight. At one point, as we were making pretty aggressive turns to try out the auto-pilot, the shop owner turned around and said, you're not feeling airsick, are you? I was completely taken aback, as the thought hadn't even occurred to me that I might feel queasy. I wasn't bothered in the least, in fact, I was enjoying the maneuvers! I guess it's not so surprising, considering how much time I spent in small planes last summer! Although none of those flights lasted more than fifteen minutes each... and there are actually a lot of skydivers who feel sick on the way up to altitude! I've met lots of people who look really green in the plane but tell me their stomach settles as soon as they jump out the door.

What made the shop owner laugh is knowing that while I had been up in small planes plenty of times, I had never actually landed in one! Luckily, the landing went fine. Perfectly smooth.

Listening and watching MB and the shop owner fiddle with all the electronic gadgets in the plane, all while also keeping an ear out for the radio communications, gave me a new respect for pilots. It made me realize that maybe the pilot's course won't be quite the piece of cake I've been (cockily) envisioning. Just the fact that on top of flying the plane, you have to constantly be listening to the radio, ready to respond if someone mentions your 'name' (well, plane name), or mentions your current location and altitude, seems pretty intense. There was a lot of traffic in the air yesterday, since we were so close to Montreal, and it was such a beautiful day. And the first day of the long weekend.

Even if I anticipate it being slightly harder than I originally expected, I'm sure I'll enjoy learning to fly. I'm looking forward to sitting in the front seat and holding the controls. Being in the air, inside or outside the plane, is just so zen to me.

But if you had told me a few years ago that I would own a plane before I owned a house, I would have laughed...

*I say that, but when I saw it in real life for the first time, I thought it was beautiful just the way it is.

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