Friday, June 8, 2012

New thing #30: Wild blue yonder

What's your vector, Victor? 

Yep, that's me FLYING A PLANE!!! Well, actually it's me holding the controls while the real pilot says "Steer to your right now... Your other right... Why don't you just let me straighten us out a little?"

This was in a Cessna 421B Golden Eagle, a charter plane that my company uses when their own plane is being serviced. My colleagues and I were flying round trip from Michigan to Alabama, and since there were five of us (plus the pilot) in this six-seater plane, I called shotgun.

I put on a set of headphones so I could hear the communication between the pilot and air traffic control, and we took off. It was a beautiful day to fly. In fact, it was so smooth that it seemed like we were standing still. Joel, the very patient pilot, explained what the thirty or so gauges and levers meant while we cruised along. At one point he let me take the wheel for a few minutes, which was terrifying, especially since I wasn't tall enough to see the nose of the plane over the instrument panel, and the little artificial horizon indicator was way over on the real pilot's side of the plane. But it was still super fun, and happily I did not put us into a death spiral.

The view was terrific with only a slight haze and a few interesting clouds off in the distance. I kept an eye out for other planes and wayward suicidal birds, but the coast was clear. As Joel says, it's a big sky. I saw a lot of 'flat' as we flew over the Midwest. The GPS told me which cities we were approaching so I could wave to The Boy as we flew over Nashville. I got comfortable with the lingo between the various airport towers and other pilots, since we could hear all the conversations on our frequency. And FYI, nobody says 'over' when they are done talking on the radio. Instead they all say 'good day', like they had just finished a proper English tea.

The best part was having a front row view for the landings, especially as we headed towards our home airport at the end of the day. With the sun setting in a nice red fireball on the horizon, we were instructed to keep above the airspace over DTW before making the decent into PTK. This required a rather steep drop directly towards the dozens of lakes dotting the landscape around our local airport before Joel made a perfect gentle landing. Flying commercial will never be the same.

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