I remember driving past the airport with my father once when I was small. We watched the airplanes take off from our fast-moving lane on the highway.
“What makes them go up?” I asked. “How can something that heavy get off the ground?” I figured he’d have an answer; when my dad was a soldier, he spent some time packing parachutes for the Air Force.
He rolled down my window. “Stick out your arm,” he said.
“Now, bend your elbow and hold your hand straight like a board.”
I did that, too.
“Pretend your hand is an airplane. Tip the nose up a little.”
Just that slight angle change forced my hand upward like a rocket. And that’s when I fell in love with flight.
From there, I tagged along whenever my dad and brother attended the Dayton Air Show. I loved the aerial displays: The Blue Angels and their showboating stunts; the sexy F-16s and their blazing speed; the bi-planes and their World War II reenactments; the cargo planes trudging slowly across the horizon. I’d use my hands to shield the sun. Mostly I’d keep my composure and just watch with my mouth open.
On the inside, though, I was like young Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun, totally losing his mind over the P-51s air-raiding his concentration camp.
(I think I was 13 the first time I saw this scene. To this day, it’s still one of my favorites of all time, ever.)
Earlier this year, I took a ride in a Huey helicopter. It was #7 on my list of 36×37 assignments. Before last week’s trapeze lesson, the Huey was my favorite 36×37 adventure. But as much as I loved it, I didn’t really want to be the passenger.
I wanted to be the pilot.
So why not? Why not be the pilot? If the opportunity arises—which it did thanks to Groupon—why not grab the controls and take physics for a test drive? At 2:00 this Saturday (weather permitting), I’ll head over to Don Scott Air Force Base to meet the good folks at The New Flyer’s Association and fly a Piper under Richard’s careful instruction.
Wish me luck, and hope I don’t crash and burn. (Ba dum bum.) I’ll have the full story (plus videos) on Monday.
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