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.