Monday, March 26, 2007

Reactions of My First Passenger

I flew yesterday morning with Eric G., a buddy o' mine that's lucky enough to live five minutes from the airport. When it was all said and done, I told him I was going to write about it and asked if he had a paragraph or something he might want to contribute. The following is what he wrote, and it's a bit long, so I'll just leave it with what he said and write about it myself in another entry.

* * * * *

First of all, no other friend I have inspires as much confidence in his ability to master complicated stuff than Greg. (For those of you who really know Greg, you know exactly what I mean). Therefore, even though this was my first time in a single engine 2+2 seater (what some may jokingly call a "JFK Jr. Killin' Plane"), I approached Greg's "first flight with passenger" after recently getting his wings without even a stitch of trepidation. Our route was to take us from the Gaithersburg, MD, airport to the northwest - around the restricted Camp David area ("W" was in town and this area was even larger than ususal), over Harper's Ferry, WV, and then south along the Blue Ridge mountains/Skyline Drive (avoiding the "Class B" airspace around the Dulles flight pattern) and landing in Charlottesville, VA. His pre-flight planning was meticulous (of course), and he had weather reports, airport profiles and communication codes, maps, checklists and all kinds of stuff to make sure he had accounted for every possible circumstance and contingency. He even called right before he started up the engine to make sure the weather report he had (which was only an hour old at most) was "the most current/accurate." My only disappointment was that the lady on the radio didn't answer Greg's inquiry with a "Ground Control to Major Tom."

I have to tell you - for a "rookie" Greg sure flies like an ace. I watched in amazement at the near surgical precision of his hands reaching for and fiddling with dials, knobs and buttons for the gizmos on the instrument panel while talking in some nonsensical languange with air traffic control - always ending each repeated command statement with "three-five-romeo" (the last few digits of our plane's ID number) - like "Climb and maintain 5,500 Three-Five-Romeo." He did not fumble or get flustered *once* throughout our flights. He maintained a series of checklists, flight lists, and maps within reach and followed every item on the checklist both pre-, during, and post-flight. Not like I would have known the difference, but watching him "thumb" each official-looking line item on the FAA checklists made me feel that much more comfortable knowing he was following every step and every rule. He answered my millions of questions about procedures and skills he was performing without hesitation. And the best part was that he was sporting the best "little kid grin" you can imagine.

So, the flight itself? The flight was surprisingly smooth. I had expected a bunch of turbulence being a small plane and all, but once we were at altidude, it was almost as if we were standing still. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was spectacular. It's really cool to be only a couple thousand feet above the ground and going slow enough that you have time to focus on details on the ground below - but fast enough that you cover three times the territory you would in the same amount of time by car. I never got nervous or scared - even when we did run into some minor bumpy patches - which were no worse than being on a commercial jetliner.

At the end of it all - Greg asked if I was "inspired" to go get flight training to become a pilot. But I have to tell you -after watching all the complicated stuff and numbers and charts he maneuvered with such proficiency I said that it's great fun, but I think I'm gonna leave it to a pro like Greg.

So, if Greg ever asks "wanna come flying with me?" You should *definitely* say "HELL yeah!" without hesitation. He knows his stuff and it'll be an experience you'll really, really enjoy. I had even more fun than I had expected and was honored to be Greg's first passenger. Would I do it again!? OHMYGOSH- YES!!! We weren't even on the ground yet and we were already talking about the next place(s) we were going to fly.

~Eric G.

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