“You ready to take off?” asked our instructor, John, a commercial pilot with thousands of hours of flight time under his belt. I had none. So how was I taking off? The closest I had been to a pilot’s seat was when the captain of a Pan Am jet I flew in 20 years ago gave me a five-second “tour” of the cockpit. But there was no turning back. We were on the freaking runway. I had a few things going for me, though. I was sitting in a $700,000 Cirrus airplane stunningly outfitted with two state-of-the-art Garmin computer screens right out of the Starship Enterprise. On them were maps of the airport and surrounding area, and lots of colorful numbers and shapes I didn’t quite get (“Keep the purple arrow next to the white arrow”—or something like that—John told me. Just like the world’s best video game, I thought). Above me, John explained, was a parachute. “You mean for each of us?” I asked. “No, for the plane.” That’s right, if anything went wrong, the plane would gently float to the ground. Finally, I had John and his calming British accent. “Put your right hand here,” he explained, pointing to a handle in the middle of the plane, “and start to give it more power.” The plane rolled forward. “Get it to 60 percent.” I did as told, my left hand on the steering stick, air traffic control crackling in my headphones. “Now, get it up to a hundred percent.” And then it happened. Just like every Boeing 747 I had ever ridden, we had liftoff—rising into the sky as the ground miniaturized below. “Wow. Simply wow!” I said. Full disclosure: John had a parallel setup to me, à la a driver’s ed car, so he did some (okay, most) of the work. And once in flight, we turned much of the work over to the autopilot—but such is life for a pilot these days, and hey, at least you get to look out the window for a bit and take in the County from above. Around 20 minutes later, we landed in Poughkeepsie. “That was pretty amazing,” I said to myself. But darned if I didn’t forget to start a sentence with, “This is your captain speaking.” Well, there was always the flight back.
We left saying: “That’s right, I’m telling everyone I know I just flew an airplane.”
Bring a friend: For training, not so much, but you’ll have plenty of time to fly them around.
Fear factor: High. Then low. The owner of the company actually got over his fear of flying by training to be a pilot.
Just do it: performanceflight.com, (914) 397-1444
â–º For more from 914INC’s Q2 2013 Issue, click here.