Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hey, that's my plane!

Jodie's taking the Pinchhitter course. This is even bigger than the cake she baked me! The thought of flying makes her nervous, but not only is she supporting me in my obsession, she's actually taking the course and a couple hours of dual instruction! She's never even been in a small plane before!

I dropped her off at the CAP trailer where the course is being given and then went to breakfast at the Airport Cafe with a fellow pilot. Two hours later I shivered in the cold outside the door to the trailer, nervous like an expectant father to see her reaction. She came bouncing out of the trailer talking a mile a minute - she had a question about barometric pressure, but "they" said flying's not hard, etc. We went back to the airport cafe with John (my instructor) so they could eat something, and chatted for a while as they ate.

Then we went out to the plane. My plane of choice for her, 739BA, was not available, so we went to trusty 35R. John told me to do the preflight inspection of the airplane, making a comment about how I'm more thorough than he is -- for Jodie's benefit, I'm sure. Then John got in the left seat, and Jodie sat in the right seat. I hovered by the right door while John went through all of the controls and instruments with Jodie. After explaining what "COM1" and "COM2" were, John told Jodie he was going to use COM2 to check the weather. He turned the knob on the audio panel to COM1, and Jodie said, "I thought you were going to use COM2." I just about kissed her for paying such close attention, but decided I should leave them alone and went to the car to listen on my handheld radio.

A couple minutes later the propeller started. I listened to the clearance frequency and heard John call for a transponder code, then I made a note of their code, just in case. When the plane started taxiing, I drove to the end of the active runway near the runup area, got out, listened to John make his calls on the CTAF, then watched as John, 35R, and my baby rolled down the runway and lifted into the air. I heard John make his radio call for crosswind, then no more.

I was, once again, waiting like an expectant father. The wind had been blowing at 14, gusting to 21, and I was really worried it would be bumpy and Jodie would have a bad first impression of flying. An hour later, I was still waiting.

Almost an hour and fifteen minutes after they left, I heard John announcing their arrival into the airport traffic pattern, and drove to the arrival end of the active runway. John made the radio calls, and I saw 35R on a slooooow final. The headwind was 15+, and the plane seemed to be barely moving across the ground. They touched down, right wheel first, came up slightly, then touched down again.



I called on the radio, "Three Five Romeo, that was a nine point two."
John's voice came over the radio, "Nine point two?"
"That's right, Three Five Romeo, nine point two, niner decimal two."
"She landed it," John said.
"Make that a 10.0, Three Five Romeo, that was a perfect landing," I radioed as I got into the car to drive to the parking area.

Jodie had a big smile on her face, but with a slightly guarded look. It turns out that John had had her take the controls right after takeoff, and she had spent the hour practicing turns, climbs, and descents all the way from Gaithersburg to Gettysburg and back. She had thought she was just going for a ride and that John would show her what HE was doing, not have HER do it, and I think she was a little overwhelmed. I'm hoping to get her to contribute her thoughts here, but if not I'll write more about what she told me a little later.


For me, this was a great day, even though I didn't get into the air myself! Man, do I love that girl!

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