My first official lesson with my new flight instructor was on Tuesday, January 24th.
We flew at sunset, and all of those inspirational quotes about flying came rushing to me as I took in the beautiful scenery around us. You know the ones I’m talking about:
“For once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return. – Leonardo da Vinci
“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn't it be? - it is the same the angels breathe.” – Mark Twain
“Kristen can trip over air.” – My mother
Oh wait, that last one’s not about flying. But it’s a pretty good descriptor of how I operate on the ground. If there’s something to bump into, I’ll find it. But after my first flight lesson, my instructor said “You did a really good job. You were very coordinated.” Me? Coordinated? I’ll take it! And guess what? When you’re in the air, there are a lot fewer things to bump into!
That freedom has got to be what so many pilots love about flying. It’s just you and the air around you (and in my case, an instructor). There are no annoying bicyclists in the driving lane when there is clearly a designated bike lane, no people causing you to slam on your brakes because they are jaywalking in dark clothes at night, no texting or cell phone use of any kind. I’m finding many aspects of flying to be quite calming. I’ve gotten the hang of my pre-flight inspection, which at first seemed like a major chore. Now, I look at it as a necessary way for me to get up close and personal with this machine that I’m trusting to hold me in the air.
My lessons have progressed quickly over the past few weeks. During my second lesson (and every lesson thereafter) we’ve practiced what I’d refer to as a new form of tripping over air—stalls. They’re less painful than bumping into a table corner, but quite a bit more alarming. My instructor performed the first stall (power-off, meaning we are operating at minimal power). This felt much like the first few seconds on a roller coaster after you’ve climbed up a couple hundred feet and begin to roll down the other side.
When it came time to perform my own, it was a weird sensation to purposely pitch the nose so high, all the while being warned by an obnoxious noise that the airplane is not happy about this maneuver.
Unlike when my instructor demonstrated the stall, my stall felt more like riding the elevator in the Tower of Terror at Disney. When the stall broke, we immediately pitched downward and all I could see was the ground. Why? Because I let go of the control yoke! I had learned through my ground lessons that the plane would recover itself after gaining some speed, but it was still a little unnerving. My instructor explained how to gradually release the back pressure that I had held to initiate the stall, and our “breaks” have been a bit less jerky every time.
Our next big maneuver will be power-on stalls (where we are using full power and pitching much higher). I have a feeling that I’ll get that same unnerving feeling again, but in time, will grow used to it. Orson Welles said, “There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” At the rate my lessons have been going, I think it will be a long time before I ever feel bored flying an airplane.