Last week I had a “30 Minute Hands-On Trial Flight” courtesy of Red Balloon.
I booked in for an 8am flight, meaning I had to wake up at 6am, get my family organised and drive over to the air field by 7:45am. Yup! My husband and 3 sons were going to watch me “fly” a plane!
Amazingly, we arrived really early, so we sat in the car park waiting for the flight center to get started up for the day. Unfortunately, this gave me time to get quite nervous.
I noticed that the car park was filling up with cars. And getting out of some of the cars were lots of guys, young and old, all wearing pilot’s uniforms.
The older pilots looked like they were the most serious guys in the world. Experienced, steady, old enough to have some grey hair, but not so old they needed a walking stick and a hearing aid…these were the pilots you like to imagine are going to pilot your plane.
But some of the young ones looked *really* young… like the age of my teenage cousins! They looked like they might’ve drinking a few beers and playing video games the night before, and this morning they were miraculously transformed into pilots with nothing more than a nice tie and a white shirt.
Then it was time to go in. My husband took the kids up to the observation deck to go “Wow! Look at that 1974 twin engined something-or-other!” while I checked in.
The place was immediately calming. It was so well organised and everyone so polite and professional, it had a very calming effect on me.
And yes, the whole place was FULL of dashing young men in uniform! Hello there! Looks like a fine day already!
While I was waiting for my pilot, I wondered outside to look at an old fashion plane (called a Tiger Moth) sitting on the runway. You can buy flight experiences with these planes, which includes aerobatics (upside-down barrel loops in the sky! Eeep!). Apparently it’s one of their most popular gift experiences.
I met my pilot, Chris. He was about my age, but he did not smell of beer, or have any signs of a hangover. So far so good.
He led me over to “our plane” – a Cesna 152. I was told that it was about 30 years old and its design was from the 1960s. But Chris reassured me that it was a very, very solid plane.
I have never seen, flown or sat inside a small aircraft before.
I must admit, I was surprised by how LITTLE it was. I always think of commercial jet planes as being humungous mechanical beasts of the sky. But this little plane reminded me of… a large pet rhino. Sorry, a bit random.
I thought a “light aircraft” would weigh as much as a car. But it actually weighed about as much as a double bed mattress. I know this, because when I bumped into the plane with my hip, and it wobbled a bit, just like a mattress. So then I was nervous again, and I felt a little nauseous.
Now… I may as well say this….I’m a famous vomiter.
Someone can spin me around once on an office chair… and I’ll fall flat on the floor, with sickening waves of nausea crashing into my head… and no amount of vomiting can make it stop. It’s not a pretty sight.
Hence, I was getting quite anxious about being in the small plane and being hit with motion sickness, and then spray painting the whole inside of the plane (and Chris’s nice white shirt) with my partly digested breakfast. 30 minutes of vomiting! Won’t THAT be a story to tell the kids!
But, I was very excited at the same time. Nauseous AND excited!
We strapped into the plane and it was TINY. I felt like I was inside a golf cart! I was sitting shoulder to shoulder next to pilot Chris (who smelt rather nice).
Chris gave me a quick briefing. The plane had “his and her’s” dual controls – phew! He pointed out the other controls. The fuel. Height above sea level. Speed in knots. Level of plane. Other stuff I don’t remember. There were like 15 dials to look at. I blurred out with overload.
Ok, time to set off.
He swiftly fiddled with lots of buttons, knobs and switches, and checked all the dials and other things. I was very impressed with his multi-tasking abilities. He even reached between our legs and fiddled around with something (totally innocent though. See photo above).
Anyway, he was an awesome instructor. He explained everything nice and simply. He let me know a few minutes ahead, what was about to happen. He spoke clearly, calmly and confidently. I had a heart-sinking feeling that I was now putty in his hands. I was – literally – trusting this guy with my life. But he seemed trust-worthy. And he smelt nice.
He explained that we were going to taxi out to the runway. And that I was going to push the throttle all the way down, then I was going to pull the hand controls up and we were going to take off!
THE HELL?? WHAT?? I’M GOING TO TAKE THE PLANE OFF THE GROUND?!?!
I was going to say something stupid like – I THOUGHT YOU WERE THE PILOT AND THAT WAS YOUR JOB!
But I just nodded my head. And melted into a nervous puddle of goo.
We taxied to the take-off position on the runway. As instructed, I pushed the throttle all the way down and the plane sped until I was bouncing around on my seat. We were speeding along really, really fast! Like speeding along in a golf cart, on a really bumpy golf course!!
Then I pulled the hand controls slowly towards me… and holy shit the plane started to lift. I held my breath.
The sound and friction of the wheels on the bitumen got softer and lighter. My feet felt light. The plane angled upwards. My heart felt floaty. And the plane took off! I was soaring over trees and houses!!
AAARGH. I TOOK OFF A FRICKING PLANE!!
There’s Chris looking all cool in his aviator sunglasses. I should have worn mine. Would have felt more like a pilot.
This is me steering the plane with my knee while I text messaged my husband and took photos on my iphone.
Chris was cruising along, while I lapped up gorgeous views of the city and river.
This is the famous Cottesloe Beach from above. It was a spectacular day for flying!!
When we were over the ocean, Chris handed the controls over to me and said I can do what ever I liked with the plane. In fact his words were, “There’s nothing you can do that I can’t fix.”
It took me a few moments to understand his phrase… and my mind instantly replayed crazy plane scenes from movies… kamikaze nose dives, ballerina figure 8s in the clouds, hurtling towards a cliff face (or waterfall), weaving between sky scraper buildings and waving at the office workers! No thanks. I was happy with gentle, easy cruising.
I wasn’t very creative. I just decided to slowly turn left. Then slowly turn right. But after all the slow swaying left to right, I was itching to do something a bit more *interesting*.
At that moment I *wished* I had the 45 minute session where there was enough time for the pilot to do some aerobatic tricks!
Yes! Me, Mrs Pukeface! Wanted to do upside-down loops! The desire to have an amazing experience was all too tempting.
And I realised I had absolutely no motion sickness, or feeling of nausea. I felt… freeeee!
Anyway, all too soon, we had to head back to the airport. It was just so cruisey and so cool.
Chris did a perfect landing (as far as I could tell) and we jumped out. He gave me a certificate and said if I ever wanted to learn how to fly, this hands-on trial flight was actually my very first flying lesson! Cool!
I was completely buzzed by the whole experience. I was drunk with satisfaction.
(A big thank you to Chris!)
When I retold my story to my husband, he was oozing with jealousy. He absolutely loves planes, and was grumpy that I described the take-off as “speeding along in a golf cart”. Ha ha!
It was definitely a fantastic experience that was totally worth it!
The team at Red Balloon are offering my readers a special promotion!
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Terms and Conditions: Offer valid until 31/12/12. Promotional Code can only be used once per person. All purchases are subject to RedBalloon T&Cs, for full details read here.