With school quickly approaching, the only thing I can think about is clinging onto summer as long as I can. One of my favorite parts of summer is travel and, as weird as it sounds, one part of travel that I always enjoy is the flight. For some reason I find the hustle of the airport and even the turbulence to be exciting and the perfect way to start or end a trip.
Due to this love for flying I played with the idea of becoming an airplane pilot for a little bit of time. I could envision myself sitting in the cockpit and hopping from place to place everyday. So, my one birthday wish this year was to learn how to fly (I mean, that is kinda a large part of the pilot job description) and my awesome parents made it happen!
Luckily for me, I live just 15 minutes away from a great place to take flying lessons: Santa Monica Airport. For those who don’t know, this is a small plane airport for privately owned planes and home to a bazillion different companies who teach flying lessons. I did some research online and ended up choosing Skyward Aviation as the company for me. I called them up one morning, had a little chat, then just like that I was scheduled for my lesson.
The morning of my lesson was a little dreary. The clouds had rolled in overnight and kept all of Santa Monica shrouded in a bit of a haze. I pulled into the parking lot in front of a large building lined with doors all labeled for the different flying companies. After locating mine, I entered the building and met up with my instructor, Eric. While a bit subdued, he was extremely nice and he talked me through the basics of flying and what all the different panels and gauges I would be seeing in the plane would mean. Then, after a short jaunt to the plane, we were off!
(Before the flight)
Flying was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. We started my lesson working on groundwork and how to control the plane while it is touching the earth. Believe it or not, while on the ground you steer the plane using feet pedals. After just learning how to drive, this was so awkward for me and I kept wanting to grab the wheel and steer it like a car. Somehow, though, I managed to get us onto the runway and after a series of jargon was passed between my instructor and the folks over the radio, we were cleared for takeoff.
Due to the fact that I would have crashed us, he pretty much took over during this part of the lesson. But, he was really good at explaining what he was doing to the plane and why (he even let me move the levers to crank up our speed). As we lifted off the ground he turned to me and told me that no matter how many times he does it, the feeling he gets at takeoff never gets old. I have to say, my one time gave me a pretty incredible feeling. All this built up anxiety and energy was just finally let go and it was like I was on the perfect roller coaster seconds after the big drop.
After we reached our coasting altitude, I got complete control of the plane. With his instruction, I was allowed to turn and dip and just have fun with the aircraft (At last, I was back in my comfort zone of using a wheel to turn). We zoomed past Downtown LA, the Hollywood sign, and even traveled up the coast a bit past Malibu. I can’t even describe how much fun I had. The views were amazing and, I mean, I was flying an airplane, how could it be anything but fun?
All good things must come to an end, though, and eventually we had to land back down again. One part I didn’t know about landing is that next to the runway there are several different lights that change color from red to white depending on how high or how low the plane is. Using these lights, a pilot is able to find the ideal height to come into the airport at and not crash.
I will never forget this experience and, while I have nixed the idea of becoming a pilot, I was so glad I decided to do this. Not only does it provide a much more interesting fact during the Name Game than “my favorite color is blue”, but it also allowed me to dive all the way into something that I absolutely love. Guess what: I can fly!!