After skydiving last year, and having floated in a plane on a reduced gravity flight, it seemed like the next logical item for the bucket list would be flying one. I’d started keeping an eye open for opportunities, and when I saw a great deal on LivingSocial for an hour-long flight lesson, I jumped on it.
The company I flew through was Genesis Flight Services in Albertville, Ala. (And, for the record, I highly recommend them.) I was surprised at just how hands-on the lesson was; I figured I would actually fly probably half of that hour, once we were safely in the air and before we began the process of landing. The reality was, I had my hands on the stick during take-off, and flew the approach for landing. And, as a bonus, the instructor let Rebecca ride in the back seat for free. (Huge kudos to her; despite only having flown a couple of times, and not in years, she didn’t hesitate for a second hopping in the small plane with someone who’d never piloted before at the stick.)
Once we got in the air, I was amazed how well we could see the towers of the nuclear power plant near Scottsboro. The pilot said that he thought maybe some buildings in the distance were Huntsville. I decided to find out. It was hard to tell from that distance, but there was one building that, if he were in fact right about it being Huntsville, I was fairly sure I recognized, so I pointed the nose toward it and headed that way.
Flying the plane was much easier than I’d imagined. I had some experience with flight simulators, and it was amazing how much easier the real thing was. The reality of actually seeing the ground and sky around me and of feeling the results of what I was doing it made a huge difference. (Though I was horribly bad about climbing without realizing it.)
I flew toward the building and realized that it was, indeed, what I thought it was — the dynamic test stand at Marshall Space Flight Center. I’d never been able to show Rebecca Marshall, so, obviously avoiding army airspace, I flew alongside the Arsenal and into the Hampton Cove area. We could see the Saturn V as we were approaching, but finally had to turn back to make sure we’d have enough time for the return to Albertville airport.
We had a little extra time, so we played around with slow flight and steep turns, and, with a bit of guidance, I flew the plane back in for the approach to landing. Nerd that I am, though I don’t know when I’ll ever get to do it again, I went ahead and bought a pilot’s log book to record my one hour of flight time.
Given the opportunity, though, I’d love to do it again.