Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high…

Jean Moule last wrote about flying with a different instructor for the Flight Training blog. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

learn to fly, student pilot, flying in Hawaii

Rather than go snorkeling, student pilot Jean Moule (right) arranged a flight lesson during her visit to the islands.

Spiraling up on thermals in a glider, circling Kauai dodging clouds: what a way to spend time and funds for vacation fun.

I expected to take to the air between islands and headed home. Yet…something called…

Normally time in the tropics leads to sunset and/or snorkeling cruises. Fancy meals overlooking the beach. And, for more active adventure: zip lines, parasailing, scuba diving, SUP (stand up paddling), horseback riding. There are hikes and special coves for swimming. So, what did I unexpectedly do?

Oahu

This time…it was different. Even as we landed from the mainland onto Oahu, I knew I wanted to see more from the air. On some of the islands 80 percent of the scenery is only visible from a boat or from the sky. A bit of research and a few calls and I was scheduled to take a mini-glider lesson.

What was it like without an engine? Everything seemed different. Until Yuki had us up in the air after our release from our tow plane and we turned slowly upward and she let go of the controls. Somehow it began to feel familiar. She had told me earlier, “A student pilot learns a lot about flying from the engineless experience.” Now, if only I could take my eyes off the scenery long enough to solidify my growing skills.

She let me take the glider wherever I wished, while maintaining her watch on the altitude, the other gliders, and parachuters in the air not far from us. I FLEW. As we got ready to return to the airport she took over the controls and did a few steep g-force turns that had me laughing and joyful. Then she landed. My mini lesson helped me understand the power of rising air and the feel of an airplane, as all of them are, designed to fly on its own.

Kauai

Quite a day. This is an adaptation of what I wrote to my Salem, Oregon, flight instructor:

Remember the time you took over the controls after we were landing to quickly clear the runway for a corporate jet flight coming in? As we landed in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii, my flight instructor took over the controls to get out of the way of an American Airlines flight about to take off. Oh my…amazing to be intertwined with the big guys. And, like, holding them up!? We also had to wait in line for the takeoff earlier. Almost cartoonish: Big planes and little us. A first for me.

As I took off Bruce said, “You’ve done this before.” He also appreciated that I was gentle on the controls. Certainly learned a bit about flying in the mountains, near the rainy clouds and in some turbulence. Now I know to say 492 Echo Romeo unfailingly (OK, confession: Since my regular N number is 75765, I had never asked for a briefing with a tail number with letters. The briefer let me know my error when I said E R, even added “November” for the N part of the number! I have studied, my husband has tested me: At this point I think you can wake me up in the middle of the night, give me a letter of the alphabet, and I can tell you the standard word…I am even dreaming of them).

As a CFI, Bruce, a former college prof, freely shared that he could not get a student to pilot certificate level as I believe the island situation has limitations. He certainly knew his island. I was surprised that we carefully avoided flying over populated areas to reduce the noise to those communities. And I learned to skirt clouds. Raindrops on the window did not freak me out this time either.

The scenery was awesome and the cost—that had both Robbie and me up in the air—was all of $2 more than if we had both taken the regular scenic flight with the same time and route!

Worked for me. And Robbie took 100 photos.

I think I enjoyed it most when Bruce and Robbie were talking and I just flew over the coastline with some turns and altitude adjustments as I felt like it. 1.1 Hobbs and I have an entry to paste into my logbook.

Thought you might like to know…

And, one last surprise: having now flown a different Cessna 172, my heart races every time I see one…and I want to fly it.—Jean Moule

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