Flying High Over the Bay Area

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Kristin has a habit of choosing gifts for me that border on prescient. I grew up dreaming of the skies and zooming around in a combat jet blasting AARM missiles into the Red Threat when flight simulators on the early Apple computers made video games an approachable endeavor for the geeky elementary kid. I used to spend hours behind the stick of an F-14 Tomcat performing carrier landings and, in a slightly less violent sense, flying a Lear jet up and down the coast of the United States. So when she bought me a flight lesson from Groupon, I could hardly wait to actually be in command of a real plane.

We’d flown together in small craft before but this was a different animal entirely.

I sat down with the flight instructor for 30 minutes before the flight to go over fundamentals—pull back to go up, keep the gyro centered, etc.—and then took a short flight on a professional flight simulator. After a flawless takeoff, he pronounced me ready and obviously familiar enough with aircraft to keep us from drilling into the ground of Alameda.

We try to take Ella everywhere and since this wasn’t a commercial flight I thought it reasonable for her to accompany. The flight instructor’s supervisor agreed and photo ops abounded.

We all had headphones on to communicate with each other and traffic control. The chatter was immense and a gibberish of codes, instructions and timing signals. The instructor spoke with them like a pro and positioned the Cessna 172 Skyhawk on the runway in Hayward.

As we readied to take off I asked him, “where should I fly to?”

He said, “Wherever you’d like.”

A little trill of excitement washed over me as he throttled up and we raced down the runway. Other than my copilot instructor manning the radio and throttle, I was in complete control of this little plane. Launching into the skies of the Bay Area.

Let me say that again. We launched like a little bitchy bird into the skies of the Bay Area, one of the busiest corridors in the world. Then we flew without a flight plan, orders, mission, or a double-cross checked and triple-signed route.

It was awesome.

I took us directly over the Port of Oakland, the Oakland airport, the Bay Bridge and straight toward Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Did you even know that was possible? I certainly didn’t until this anarchic very controlled operation took place.

Ella liked it, too.

COMMENTS
  • May 14, 2012
    Amy

    This is so badass. But also…scary. Great pictures!

    • May 14, 2012
      Kristin

      Ella was shaking like a leaf the whole time! I was just trying to ward off any panic attacks 😉

  • May 14, 2012

    That is pretty awesome and just a little bit terrifying all at the same time. Also, maybe a little funny to be able to say you got your “pilot’s license” via Groupon. I’d say your wife is pretty terrific at gifting. So now the big question is who’s the better gift giver???

    • May 14, 2012
      Kristin

      I’ll let SVV answer that question! =)

      I will say, however, that he is the better pilot–without a doubt! He flew that plane like he’d been doing so his whole life.

    • May 14, 2012
      SVV

      Angie, it isn’t even close. 🙂

  • May 14, 2012

    You got to fly! Congratulations! Some of the best times of my life have come from this chapter in my life with My Honey – a helicopter (and airplane) pilot. I’ve been able to take control of both helicopters and airplanes and while I think it’s a ton of fun, I don’t think it’s something I could do solo. Or, at least, I’m not ready to try. I have taken a glider pilot lesson and that’s fun (and simple – no motor to think about). I hope you can continue to take lessons if that’s your desire, I know it’s an expensive hobby but so worth it 🙂

    • May 15, 2012
      Kristin

      A glider sounds even scarier to me than a real plane! I’m happy to ride as a passenger in either and leave the piloting up to the experts =)

  • May 14, 2012

    Awesome! My uncle is a pilot and when I was 14ish flew with him a LOT in the bay area. We even did a trip up to Anacortes Island in Puget Sound! I wish I had stuck with it and gotten my license, flying is a blast!

    • May 14, 2012
      Kristin

      It sounds like a whole lot of work–not to mention, time and money–to get your pilot’s license, though I’m pretty sure after this first taste of that lifestyle, Scott will work toward getting his later in life =)

  • May 14, 2012

    That sounds incredible! Part of me says I’d love to have taken that same flight and seen such familiar places from the air (and not just from a jet landing at SFO), but in reality I think I would have been too scared…no offense to your flying skills, Scott 🙂

    • May 14, 2012
      SVV

      None taken Emily. To be honest I had a little bit of fear seeing a 747 below us, another Cessna to our right and helicopters practicing their landings while we meandered about the air.

      But it was the good kind of fear. Some might call it invigorating.

  • May 15, 2012

    How totally exciting! And what a great gift. Most awesome to make dreams come true.

  • May 15, 2012

    That looks awesome! Can’t beat that view. 🙂

  • May 15, 2012

    My goodness, those photos of Ella in the plane are by far the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!! My dad is a pilot (military and commercial) and before the days of crazy security, I used the fly the planes all the time when I was younger. I know what a rush it is! Love that you got to enjoy it as well!

    • May 16, 2012
      SVV

      How fun is that? The closest I’ve come to flying a military jet was hanging in the belly slot of a C-17 refueling jet because I took the pilots out for pizza on their stop-over in Sicily. Do good things and you’ll be rewarded 🙂

  • May 16, 2012

    What an experience. Love those photos. (And now we have Pilot Dog!)

  • May 16, 2012
    jeanie

    Good thing I didn’t know about this in advance…

  • May 16, 2012

    Was Ella cool on the plane?!

    • May 16, 2012
      SVV

      She panted a lot and shook a little but overall didn’t seem too stressed. I think it was more the noise than anything (we didn’t leave the headset on her).

  • May 18, 2012

    I LOVE that they allowed Ella on the plane!!!! Awesome shots!

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