Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why yes, there is someone on board who can fly this plane.

This morning, I experienced the marvels of flight.  From the cockpit. After my girlfriend's last surgery, she got me a Groupon for a "Discovery Flight" at the Washington International Flight Academy.  Given the types of planes they have, I'm not sure where the International comes from.  My guess is that most of the staff seems to be Israeli, so maybe that's it. 

I spent 20 minutes on ground instruction, which consisted of a guy putting a laminated picture of the controls in front of us and walking through what they do.  Then it was off to the tarmac and the plane.  We were flying a Cessna 172, which is a single engine, 4-seater.  On the way out, I asked my pilot how long he'd been flying.  He said "3 months" and then we all laughed as he was joking.  He then said "No, just kidding.  Two years." Which I gotta tell you wasn't that much better.  But he was a nice guy. 

So a few things about flying a Cessna....
  • The plane is really simple.  The controls are all knobs and the yoke.  It's the essence of flight.  No computers.  The wind blows you left and you need to turn the yoke right to come back to your heading.  I probably flew the plane as long as commercial pilots normally do, as they just turn knobs for the autopilot except for take off and landings
  • These planes last a looong time.  I saw the pilot manual and noticed that it was made in 1984.  To put that in perspective, Justin Bieber's mother was 10 when this place rolled off the line.  
  • Wind is bad.  In a large plane you fly through clouds and you imagine sitting on them, like some sort of angel from an 80's movie.  In a Cessna, the cloud is not your friend and you end up bumping around a lot.  
  • Cessna's are not built for tall people.  
It was an awesome experience.  They give you a soft sell to getting your pilot's license when you land, which would cost probably around $5,000.  Which is about $4,950 more than I have right now.  But it might be cool one day.  

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