Sunday, January 22, 2006

Up, Up and Away!

Well, it was a great afternoon. We were a little bit late at the airport, but as my instructor was late finishing off his previous flight it didn’t make much difference. The weather was rather grey and cloudy, which was a shame as it had been clear and sunny most of the morning, but the cloud wasn’t too low and we were good to fly.

There are photos and something of a narrative here in my photoblog. It felt a lot like learning to drive; at first it was very ungainly and I was very tense, but the advantage of flying over driving is that it’s harder to bump into things unless you are unbelievably careless, so it’s easier to relax at the controls of a plane than a car. I spent about half of the time in the air watching the instruments but, once I relaxed a bit, there was also plenty of time for sightseeing and being at the controls is undeniably fun once you get over the worry. Even through the cloud and haze the view was fantastic; much better than you get in a commercial jet and because we were flying over my old stomping grounds, both around East London and along the M20 as far as Maidstone, I recognised quite a few landmarks too.

The landing was a serious buzz; sitting in the cockpit, watching the ground come towards you is quite something to behold. Even though I didn’t have control at the time, I knew enough to know what the instructor was doing as he circled the airport and eventually lined us up for landing, so I felt pretty comfortable with it all happening around me. There were some beautiful moments in the last seconds of the flight as we eased down the last few feet onto the tarmac; it felt like we were floating along, or hovering over the ground for a while before we actually touched-down. Glorious!

The next option is to take a five hour ‘beginners course’ in flying, which is intended to give you an idea of what’s involved in the full forty-five hour Private Pilot’s License course before you commit to it. The problem with it is that it’s expensive. It’s very hard to justify such an expensive hobby when we’re supposed to be cutting back on expenses to build up some savings…

I can see us in twelve months time having the time of our lives, doing everything we ever wanted to do – but sleeping under a railway arch!

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