“And we’re just about there where we need to turn around.”
Flight Instructor Michael instructed me to turn left as he pointed to the circles on the instrument panel of where I needed to take the plane. Turning away from the city was difficult. I felt comforted that the city kept pace with me on my right, standing tall and welcoming, a familiar sight as I sat in the unfamiliar.
Back to straight and level, my favorite skill of all as I matched the plane’s position with the diagram on one of the circles. With the city riding with me on my left, I revisited a place I knew would be out of sight quickly. We shouldered the north suburbs of Chicago, as picturesque as it could ever be and we quickly approached the airport.
“. . . and there’s the airport right over there,” Michael said as he pointed across my chest with an outstretched arm. I had a visual. Time was moving fast as I anticipated landing before I even knew it.
Michael took over from here, banking the plane left and then leveling. The runway was in sight. I felt we floated to the white cement. And we were down, gliding as we taxied.
What just happened? Was this over?
Back to our beginning place, we reversed actions to review post flight check. It was difficult to get out of my seat in the cockpit not because I thought I could possibly be stuck but also because it took me a few minutes to register the entire experience. I was glad Michael had busy work to allow me a few minutes to savor the moments, inside the plane, my view straight ahead and of my flight instructor sitting shoulder to shoulder with me.
I unbuckled, gave a hearty swing to open the door. “There ya go, you got it,” he said surprised as I didn’t need his help.
He took time to gather his bag, binder and headsets, clearly preoccupied enough for me to figure out how to deplane. I chuckled at the thought of trying to get started but not knowing how. Just as I was backing out Michael had confirmed. “Ok, just back on out of there.” I laughed.
I turned around and Michael put me to work. “We gotta debug the wings. Here ya go,” he said, handing me a wad of paper towel and then spraying the wings with de-bug gut spray. In the time it took me to clean up my wing he had his side done and was ready to roll the plane back. “Now go ahead, put those blocks back.” I could do this well. I was short enough to scoot under the wing and nestle the blocks in front of and behind the wheels.
While Michael finished anchoring the plane, I snapped photos of the Sundowner from different angles, capturing a moment when Michael was getting out of the plane and standing on the wing. Good shot!
We walked back into the building, Michael hurrying me along as I felt challenged by my sluggish land legs. I could only succumb to the wavy, bumpy feelings throughout my body as the sensation of being in the plane was still with me.
Once back to the office, he handed me a Certificate of Completion. “Great Flight!” was written next to his signature. Just those two words capped an ending to a memorable experience of a lifetime.
“I’ll call ya in a week to see if you want to move to Phase II,” he said as he handed me the course’s outline for the next phase. We shook hands. I thanked him again just before I gave him a hug and told him what a great experience it was and how good an instructor he is.
I was lucky and grateful to have been able to do this. I wondered if Michael felt his job rewarding, doing something that made others happy and even helped to make wishes come true. He told me that he grew up with planes and flying, between his dad and his brother, so flying is just something he does. His job is a means to end, to get a license to fly a bigger plane, to make a living, to pay bills. He can’t help but to concentrate on looking so far forward that he doesn’t realize how much value he has to himself and to others in the present.
I could say that about us, too. We focus intently on getting to the forward, planning out our lives, scheduling our months ahead that we don’t realize how rewarding and happy a mountain of minutes in the present can make us. Don’t let anything keep you from experiencing your rewarding and happy moments of today.