Monday, July 11, 2011

Diaries from Detroit, vol. 5: Flying

If this experience has taught me anything its to grab hold of or go after every opportunity that comes your way. Being proactive towards the things that excite you and inspire you is the only way to really make a set time in your life truly an experience.

Last week, one of our fellow interns invited a pilot friend of her's to come and speak to the kids at the day camp about flying. That night, I jokingly broached the topic and asked if he would take us flying, knowing that I actually was quite serious. Nino called Brian, the pilot, right then and set up a date for him to take us up. Had I not been forthright with my desires, I would have missed a fantastic opportunity.

So Sunday night, right around sunset, we arrived at a small municipal airport in Canton, MI to meet Brian and the Cessna 172 he had prepared to take us up in. He walked us through the pre-flight checks, and offered me the co-pilot's seat. With my head set on, he narrated the pre-take off preparations and filled us in on the flight plan. With the click of a switch, the runway lights were turned on and he pushed the throttle forward.

Soon enough we were in the air watching the city lights go on as the sun's light went down. He followed I-96 east towards downtown Detroit, pointing out landmarks along the way. It was incredible to see the dead-straight Midwestern street grids extend as far as the eye could see. We approached the Detroit skyline, and he began maneuvers that would take us on a loop around the skyscrapers twice while avoiding the Canadian border along the Detroit River. We flew south to do a figure-8, and circle around the skyline on the other side of the aircraft. The buildings shimmered as the street-light reflected off of different windows, changing fast against our high speed.

We banked left and headed back east towards Canton. Once we left Detroit Metro Airspace, Brian pulled his hands of the control wheel and asked over the radio if I wanted to take over. After wetting my pants, I excitedly agreed and nervously took the controls. I followed I-96 West, following the street lights and keeping my altitude at 2,500 feet. I have no idea how long I had the controls; whatever time it took to get from Detroit airspace to within site of the the field in Canton.

Brian re-took the controls and asked if we were all willing to go out over the woods and do some aerobatic maneuvers. We happily agreed, and Brian began careful maneuvers to ensure the airspace around us was clear. Once he was sure there was no one around, he banked hard to the right, pulling up to 2 Gs. He straightened out, and did the same to the left, and again to the right. I have to say that this trackless roller coaster is one of the coolest thing I've ever experienced. He turned around to regain his bearings and caught site of the airport. He switched his radio and began landing procedures.

Safely on the ground, I was beside myself with excitement and a strong desire to begin flight lessons. Alas, this dream may have to wait, but I am so thankful for the incredible gift that Brian gave us. This experience reminds me of the importance of spontaneity, good friends, and a proactive and adventurous attitude.

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