Starting from right to left, “Let’s go ahead and flip that switch, then the next two to the left, good,” until we got to the far left on the panel. The ignition. “Here’s the key, go ahead and turn us on,” he said. I chuckled because hey, at least I knew where to put a key. The engine ignited in sync with the propeller’s start. I was surprised how quiet it was now that we were revved up. Michael pointed out a couple of circles on the panel and what their needles said. Reading the instruments was fast, easy and made sense. I guess my expectations of reading an instrument panel put me back in class where I struggled to read mathematical equations and science jargon. I’m of the side of the brain that is creative, imaginative and colorful. I just don’t do computations well.
“Let’s get clearance from the tower. You’re going to press this button toward you and say this,” as he handed me a small sheet of paper with my lines to be delivered to the control tower.” And as my previous experience of broadcast journalism and speech classes kicked in, I recited slow, enunciating my position, letters and numbers succinctly. Michael quickly turned his head to look at me. Not sure why he did this. Then it was Michael’s turn as he talked to the tower with speed. Sounded like jumbled jargon to me, like he was singing a little jingle into the mike. But then I wouldn’t have expected differently. He’s a professional!
The taxi. Steering a plane with your feet of which you can’t really depress the pedals enough because you aren’t sitting close enough to them . . . is a challenge, not to mention needing to be boosted better to see over the nose. I veered left, corrected, then right. Ugh. I just couldn’t keep it on the yellow line given my physical positioning and less than adequate bodily structure.
We got to the end of the road, turned left and before all things registered, he pulled on the throttle for power, said, “pull up, pull up, pull up.” Never having a feel for how much “pull up” is equal to how quickly “up” I would get, I remained conservative with my ascension. “Now let’s take it to there,” Michael said as he pointed to the altimeter and we banked left. I think at this point I was beyond a deer in the headlights. I was comforted knowing I take directions well. I loved the part of “straight and level,” trying to match the plane with the diagram in one of the circles on the panel. And we were up and flying.
“Don’t ya gotta keep your hands on something?” I asked nervously.
“Just keep one hand on the wheel, loosely. It’s not a death grip, so you can feel the plane. The plane is pretty much flying itself right now.” I thought of how I was sitting in a 1300 pound machine going 90 miles an hour and doing nothing to make it move, fast or slow, up or down. How is this possible? It’s counterintuitive to me.
I enjoyed a highlight at this time when Michael reached back somewhere to grab my camera and he needed to lean into my personal space. “Sorry, excuse me,” he said. “Really, not a problem. Oh, wow, I almost forgot. Thank you much for remembering.”
Together, we called out the sights along the lakeshore of Chicago as we saw them. I wondered if this gets old for him, the same route along the lakefront, South to the Museums. I hoped it wouldn’t. I hoped that because he is good at what he does, and he is obviously passionate about doing it, that every time he flies, it would be a new experience and he’d see something different each time.
“Boy, this could either be a fun lesson with a student, or a really, long, painful one.”
“Pieces of work, huh?”
“Oh, yep. I had someone who just didn’t, couldn’t, really get it.”
We continued our conversation about where we were in our lives and his personal and professional goals. We became friends fast. We clicked.
“So what do ya think?” he asked.
“I have no words. For someone who thinks of words constantly, I have none now. This is an incredible experience. I’m happy. Thank you.”
End of part two. Part three is coming soon.