Flying. Some of us have done it on big planes, others on small planes. Then some of us haven’t flown at all. That was me, until a few weeks ago, when I got to go on my first flight. At first, I was worried I would be nervous, or get sick on the flight (I used to suffer from motion sickness), but once I got up in the air, I had a blast!
Before I continue, I would like to say that this flight was only made possible via the Civil Air Patrol, and the senior staff of the TN-194 unit. A few months back, my brother and I joined CAP, and since then we’ve written a few other posts about the experiences we’ve enjoyed since then. This flight was possibly one of my favorite experiences so far. If you want to learn more, check out www.capmembers.com. For information on joining, go to www.gocivilairpatrol.com.
When we first stepped foot onto the flight line, I knew I would enjoy this flight. I had always imagined I would like to fly, but had never had the chance nor the occasion to. Actually, we had to search for a bit to find the plane, at the back half of the airport. When we got there, our pilot, who goes by Andy, was finishing up the pre-flight check. While he was finishing that, I took the liberty of checking out the outside of the plane. At first glance, the plane looked quite heavy, but in reality it was very light. Even leaning on it could have sent it rolling down a hill.
We boarded the plane right as he was finishing the pre-flight. As he powered up the various systems in the cockpit, he explained to me what each one did (I got to sit upfront first). Finally, he powered up the engine, and the propeller roared to life. Soon we were moving down the runway, about to takeoff. Contrary to what you may believe, while the plane is on the ground, it isn’t controlled via a steering wheel. In reality, there are pedals in the bottom of the cockpit, one to go left, and one to go right. For brakes, simply push down on the upper part of the pedals. At the end of the runway, there was one final check. This is when you check the windows, make sure all instruments have power, and run over a few safety measures, such as the fire extinguisher’s location.
Then, we were off. I watched out the window as we picked up more and more speed, until suddenly, I felt a lurch, and the ground began to sink away. Like everyone says, the takeoffs are always the most uncomfortable, but once we were up in the sky it felt similar to driving down the road. Soon after, I took out my camera and began getting good pictures. About fifteen minutes went by, and I was still snapping away at my camera, when Andy said something I couldn’t quite understand. When you’re inside a small plane, you have to use a headset to communicate with the other people in the plane. Somehow, I managed to get the one headset that wasn’t working correctly. I could hear to some degree, but I couldn’t talk back to anyone. So throughout the flight, I had to yell to be heard over the engine. Once again, he asked, but this time I understood him. My heart skipped a beat at what I heard!
He repeated, “Do you wanna fly?” To be honest, I hadn’t planned on flying at all throughout this flight. I expected there to be too many legal issues. So needless to say, I was quite surprised. When I first put my hands on the controls, I kinda did a stiff-arm thing, and kept the plane as level as possible without turning. But shortly after that, I got over my nervousness and began to execute turns, altitude changes, and other maneuvers. Now keep in mind, this was my first time flying. Period. I had no idea of the turn capabilities of this plane, much less any other plane. So I did really small, and rapid turns, in short increments. I did the same when ascending, and descending. I flew for a good thirty minutes, before my brother in the back of the plane spoke out.
Apparently my brief, shaky turns were making him sick, so we had to return to the airport. Luckily, he did not have any stomach problems during landing. Once we were back on the ground, I asked him what happened. He said that he had begun feeling numb, sweaty, and his vision was graying around the edges (obvious signs of passing out). And thus, my flight experience was cut short. But even so, Gage was willing to go back up if I wasn’t the pilot. So this time, I was the one in the back, and he was upfront. It is weird being in the backseat, much different from that of a car. It is more disorienting than being upfront. But even then, he still was motion sick. So we had to go back once again, and this time he didn’t feel like going back up.
So it was just me and Andy, and we had a great time. Right before we took off again, he told me we were going to do a few advanced moves. By that, he meant pulling a few Gs, and even going to try “0 Gs”. The first maneuver was a rapid form of takeoff, usually performed on all-grass runways, where you have a much smaller runway. Basically, you takeoff at a much steeper angle, and a higher speed. I could actually feel the G force increase as Andy did this, and I was pushed back into my seat. And I loved the feeling, it’s weird and fun at the same time. But after we were in the air, we did even more maneuvers like the previous one.
My personal favorite was hard banks to the right and left. The G force is clearly felt, and it becomes somewhat difficult to move your limbs. On the other hand, my least favorite part was the “0 Gs” flight. Now to understand what 0 Gs is, one must first know about Gs. In our everyday lives, we live at 1 G, which is the gravitational force of Earth. As you’re reading this, 1 G is being exerted on your body. However, at the edge of our solar system, there is very little gravity. (What little gravity comes from the sun, and other passing celestial bodies), meaning you would be at near 0 Gs. So 0 Gs is, in fact, what it would feel like if there was no gravity on Earth. This is achieved by briefly cutting off, or nearly off, the engine and letting the plane cruise on it’s own. This is a little terrifying at first, since it feels like your falling. Just as your brain begins to register this, the pilot will turn the engine back on, and you’re back to normal flying. Although you might feel a little lightheaded afterwards.
For the last part of my flight, I got to see how fast a plane can really go. By car, a trip from the airport to one of the nearest cities could take up to thirty minutes by car, and yet it took half that time by plane. Now I understand why everyone travels by plane! After the flight, I later learned that the maneuvers the pilot had done were all the ones I needed. We managed to fit all of them into a two hour flight, when in reality these are usually performed over five hours. Now I can’t wait for the next one. I am “hooked” on the flight experience. Luckily, in a few weeks, I’ll be going on a C17 cargo plane. I can’t wait, and I plan on writing a post on that flight too!