I've come to find, is challenging, but not impossible. Mark (the co-worker
who got me hooked in the first place) referred me to a flight instructor
at the Squadron Two Flying Club in San Jose. He then gave me a price
listing of what it would take to get a pilot's certification flying a
Cessna 152--the cheapest rental plane in the fleet. It wasn't bad, so
after a two-hour phone call, we set up lessons. There would be an hour of
ground instruction, and then I was to get into the plane and fly it. As
simple as that.
I sneaked out of work at
four and met my instructor at the flying club, in what used to be the old
San Jose Airport. While The instructor explained the syllabus (wow, things
go by fast------I do my first solo flight when?), a steady line of jets
rumbled by the front window on their way to the runway. We covered
pre-flight, including pre-flighting the pilot, then grabbed the keys and
trotted out to the lot to meet "my" airplane, 714VT.
Despite its nickname,
"Vicious Terrible," the small yellow-and-white plane looked un-intimidating
enough. After a long, step-by-step pre-flight, we towed the plane out of
its parking space, strapped in and started it up.
Here lay the first
challenge: taxiing. Unlike a car, where you steer with your hands and
control speed with your feet, in a plane you steer with your feet on the
nose wheel/rudder pedals and control speed with your hand on the throttle.
There are also brakes at the tips of the rudder pedals. This took some
getting used to, and under my "control," the plane wobbled drunkenly all
over the place. Also, with my hand on the throttle, I got the impression I
was running a lawn mower with wings.
We finally got into
position by the runway and did our final check on the engine, electrical
systems and controls, and then it was our turn to take off. I managed to
get Vicious Terrible off the ground by myself, and as we were climbing
straight out, the radio went dead. Unconcerned, the instructor left me to
fly the plane while he whacked at the radio--brave guy. He got it working
somewhat, and we turned to the mountains over Palo Alto and began
The first lesson consisted
of very simple stuff: straight and level flight, making shallow turns,
climbs and descents, and trimming the nose (there's a little wheel or
crank you adjust to set up back pressure and make flying easier). The only
thing that made flying difficult at this point was the setting sun, which
was right in my eyes, and I'd forgotten my sunglasses. Oh, and I had to
keep my hand on the throttle at all times, which was rough on my shoulder.
This is, I was told, to establish a habit that will eventually protect me
from a sadistic inspector during my check ride--with my hand there, the
inspector can't "inadvertently" push in or yank out the throttle without
my knowledge. That's encouraging.
Again, the radio futzed
out and The instructor started whacking at it again, and decided to call
it a day, but at least the radio worked enough for us to get landing
Landing... the syllabus
didn't say anything about my landing the plane, and here I learned my
first true lesson of the day: expect the unexpected. We turned over
downtown San Jose and approached the airport, dropping altitude, and the
instructor still doesn't have his hands and feet anywhere near the
controls. The runway looms closer, and he still hasn't said, "My
airplane," meaning I give over control. The ground is getting closer, and
suddenly some bumpy air starts knocking the plane arou-aaaAAAAAAA! "Don't
get ground-shy," The instructor says. Ground-shy? I don't wanna hit
the ground! One more hard bounce, and The instructor takes over.
The lesson ends and I drag
myself home at nine o' clock, giggling insanely. I flew the plane--that's
so cool! The instructor hadn't touched the controls for nine tenths
of the trip.