Learning to fly
It was my birthday last week. What? I’ve already said that? Like 50 times? Well sue me. I love my birthday. And this one has been one of the best ever. First of all, I had all the excitement of books coming out and all of that. But I also had the best present of my life from my husband (and this is considering he bought me this last year).
He bought me a flying lesson.
As soon as he told me, I was skipping around the house like a nutter. I have always wanted to learn how to fly. Especially after last year in Belize when Chris and I were flown around the country by our own pilot as it was cheaper than getting cars. Plus, one of my favourite books is Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which is all about his years flying treacherous mail routes across the African Sahara and the South American Andes. And on Thursday that became a reality.
We arrived at the West London Aero Club and I was taken to meet Justin, who was to be my instructor. I had fully expected to be taken up in a plane for a sight-seeing tour. But Justin told me very early on that that wasn’t going to be the case. I was actually going to be flying the plane. So I had better pay attention.
He took out a model plane and talked me through how the controls worked and the physics of flight. And before I knew it I was climbing into a Piper Warrior, putting my headphones on and strapping myself in.
Then it was full throttle, pull back on the stick and we were flying.
Actually I was flying. For the 60min lesson, I was in control of the plane for about 40mins. Of course, Justin always had his hands an inch away from the controls should I do something crazy, like put us into a spin or stall at 1000ft. But as I don’t have a death wish, I didn’t do any of those things. I focused entirely on keeping us level and in the air.
It’s hard to describe how amazing it was. I didn’t feel free, or like I was bird-like. Instead my awe came from how overwhelmed I was by what a feat of engineering is flight. It’s a true case of humanity’s mastery over nature. And yet when you’re up there, moving up, down, left and right, it feels so very natural: like the plane becomes an extension of yourself.
When I finally came down (physically at least, I’m still floating emotionally) Justin said “Oh, oh. I recognise that look.”
I had the bug. I couldn’t wait to get back up there.
I now want to get my pilot’s licence – I just need to win the lottery or land that elusive film deal. For now, I’ll have to make do with my pilot’s cap. Which I am refusing to take off.