Thursday, February 24, 2011

i try flying a plane

I have to admit there aren't many people I know who would be willing to get in a plane with me knowing that I would be the one flying the plane. You're a brave man Bradley Rogan. Before we left Brad and I had a conversation that went a little like this...

Me: It says on the information sheet that aerobatics are optional.(pause)
Both of us: Well, they're not.
Me: So are we going to be doing loops and barrrel rolls and the ones where you spin around and around when you're falling?
At this point Brad looked at me with a little grin and a rather mischievious glint in his eyes.
Brad: What's this "we"? You're the one that'll be flying.

Several rows of planes sat lined up on the tarmac. We walked towards a little Cessna 152. Evidently Captain Brad had already set the plane up and done all the checks. We sat in the cockpit and Brad began pointing out gauges, buttons, levers and peddles. He set me up with headphones and checked my seat position. His plan for the flight went like this:

"So I'll get you to take off. Then we'll head over the coast, head north a little, then come back over the ocean and head towards Cockburn sound. Once we're there I'll do a loop, then you can do a loop, I'll do a barrel roll, then you can do a barrel roll. We'll just have a bit of a play then we'll head back and I'll get you to land it."

I'm smiling and nodding as Brad is telling me this. But a little voice inside my head is starting to wonder if he knows I've never flown a plane before. Surely, he knows. Surely. Although he does seem to have a lot of faith in my non-existant ability. I just keep smiling and nodding anyway.

Brad gets me to start the plane and drive it towards the runaway after we are granted clearance by the control tower. Turns out I am a bit of retard at taxiing the plane. I kept trying to steer it with the wheel. "So?" I hear you ask. Ah, see a plane is not a car and when you're on the ground you steer the plane with your feet. Weird. I had issues with it. But, luckily Brad had his own set of pedals and was able to help me steer it. He also had to remind me a few times that planes drive in the middle of the road. They don't have to keep to left (memo to self: once again planes are not cars).

We did make it to the runway and into the air. Brad was giving me instructions: when we reach this speed do this and then do this. Once this happens do this. And there we were. Flying in our little plane with me at the wheel. We were flying and we weren't falling! Just as Brad had said we flew towards the coast, then north for a bit, then we swung around and headed south towards Cockburn Sound. Once we were above Cockburn Sound Brad started explaining how to do a loop. His tone was so casual he might've been explaining to me how to knit a sweater. I'm starting to believe I might actually be able to do this.

Brad demonstrates the loop first, explaining to me what he is doing as he doing it. With nothing to hold onto I decide I may as well hold onto my camera and film the loop. Brad points the nose towards the ground to build up the air speed. Once we are going fast enough he pulls the controls out and the ground disappears. I can feel the g-forces pushing me from all sides then the ground appears again and we are back level.

"Now, your turn," Brad says. And in that same relaxed, no-big-deal-it's-just-a-loop-at-1000ft tone he tells me what to do. And I did it. And we didn't die! It was at that moment I realised this would not be the last time I flew a plane. I was hooked.

We do the same scenario with a barrel roll then combine the two together. We do a couple more manouvers then head back towards the airport. Brad points me in the right direction and makes a call to the control tower as we come over the power station. He explains how there are entrances and exits to the airport, just like a car park.

Right, so I just want you to head straight for the piano keys," Brad says, as we line up the runway and begin to descend. "And, when we just above the ground we point the nose up a little. I'll talk you through it" So, there I am, steering a plane towards white lines on a road 1000ft below me while Brad calmly gives me short directions like 'little to the left', 'just bring her down a bit', 'yep, that's good'. It probably wasn't the smoothest landing but I did it. Luckily, Brad helped me work the pedals to keep the plane straight once we on the ground. Actually, he pretty much did that for me. As we parked the little plane back in line with all the others I already felt like going up again.

The final verdict: I can do a barrel roll and a loop but I'm a bit shit at driving the plane on the ground.

Special thanks to The Boss. Petee you are a legend!

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