Friday, October 31, 2008

Fourteen crashes later!

Last year, at birthday time, I was in Namibia and celebrated with a sky dive. This year, I am home in Northern California. As birthday time approached, I received a notice about twelve hours of simulator flight training at the Hiller Museum at San Carlos Airport. At the same time, I got a discount coupon for a flying lesson at the Palo Alto Airport. Aha! Possibilities!

You must understand that in my salad days, my goal had been to fly, travel and write. During my freshman year in college, I blew tuition money on several flying lessons, stopping when I realized I couldn’t afford both flying and college. For better or worse, my father’s common won out and I went on to collect the Bachelor’s degree.

(And then became interested in sports cars, but that’s another story!)

So I signed up for both the simulator classes and the flying lesson. The simulator classes were three hours over a four week period. Besides me, there was a mother-son and a father-son combination. I have the feeling that the kids - and likely the parents - were brought up on computers, computer games and simulators. They got the picture from ground-zero. They were taking off and landing the virtual Cessna during the first session.

Me? I was busy over compensating. My niece, herself a pilot, warmed me that there was lag time with the simulator which could throw you off. and even knowing that, I was stalling and spinning - great air show tricks maybe, except I kept crashing. The only thing I really learned from the session was how to get the simulator back in position. Between JFK and SFO, I managed some thirteen crashes in my attempts to land.

My niece now started calling me “Crash”!

The second session wasn’t much better. The other four took off nicely from SFO and San Carlos. Not me! First, I couldn’t reach the rudder pedals, much less the brakes. Skidded out on the floor in my secretarial chair. I don’t know how one kid did it for he was considerably shorter than me, but he did. In fact, he came over and looked at what I was (or wasn’t) doing and shook his head in disgust. There is nothing like pre teen disgust! At best, I was swirling all about the airport runways. Crashed on takeoff. So I decided to just fly around. The rest were working on instrument flying and planning trips from one airport to another. I was certainly far from that and after two hours, picked up my toys and went home.

The third session was a total wipe out: I forgot my reading glasses so was unable to focus on anything. - nada - nothing. Without glasses, I am desperately near sighted. With my regular glasses, I am comfortably far sighted. Since I have avoided bifocals, I was S.O.L. I left!

I did attend the fourth and last simulator session, well behind the herd. They were planning cross country flights. My cross country flight was from San Carlos to Santa Rosa, which I managed, but just barely. Then someone got the bright idea to put me in Piper Cub, which was the airplane I had flown sixty years ago. Viola! No complications. I was able to stay reasonably steady, fly out of the Kabul airport, head out to Bagram Air Field, check out the Panjsher Valley and ease over to the Salang Pass. Had I realized it, I could have cut a flight plan to Teheran. A fitting conclusion. And I was issued a certificate, for whatever that’s worth.

Next, Halloween and the realtime flight lesson - back in a Cessna, but older with a less complicated dashboard than the simulated one. Walked around and checked out the aircraft before the interior check. Climbed up on the wings to make sure we were sufficiently gassed. And then took off from the Palo Alto airport. Cloudy day with some active air pockets, which made it interesting. Got to fly some, bank and yaw, battle the currents and fight the sun in my eyes. Flew about the southern Bay area and certainly did better than on the simulator’s Cessna. Like, I didn’t crash or stall or spin. All together, two hours well spent. And I now have a Pilot’s flight log book.

I may do this again, the flying that is. Not the simulator - think I got everything I could from that. But I will have to get bifocals.

No comments: