I have flown commercially often, and have been in quite a few smaller planes used to go back and forth from Bosnia and Croatia or from one island in Hawai'i to another. These smaller plane experiences have not been my favorites as the pressure changes are horrendous, the seats are far too cramped, and the plane seems easily tossed in turbulence. So the chance to fly in an even smaller aircraft, one that seats four people, was not one I had always dreamed about. Yet, this week I found myself in a Mooney M20 and loved it! I thought I would write a little bit about the experience to kind of shift gears from political issues (though of course, everything is political, and I can't fly without noticing class dynamics) to just share the experience of being in flight, of "partaking in the miracle of flight."
Aaron Harrington, the person with whom I've shared the last seven and a half years, has wanted to fly since his grandmother brought him to a little airport in Laurel, Maryland, every Friday as a kid. They used to eat tuna fish sandwiches and watch the planes take off and land. She created a monster, really--- he eats sleeps breathes airplanes and has since then. We watch movies about airplanes, he reads books about airplanes, he got his Bachelor's and is working on his Master's in aerospace engineering. And as soon as he had enough money to begin taking lessons to become a pilot, he jumped at the opportunity. After several months, our schedules finally clicked and I was able to go with him on one of his lessons with his kick-ass instructor Nizar Bechara (I would like to write this man's biography one day) of Royal Air FlightTraining.
I was expecting the flight to be, well, rather rough. I don't know why, but I was expecting it to be a lot more like perpetual turbulence would feel in a bigger airplane. I grabbed a handful of hard candy on the way out to the plane and popped one in my mouth as soon as the engine was on, but it was totally unnecessary this time around. It was a beautiful flight. It was Aaron's first time flying a complex aircraft (ask him to explain the difference), so there were times when I could tell he was just trying to get used to the way the plane responded to him, but honestly, I was too busy gawking out the window as we flew along the eastern shore of Maryland. I loved looking at the shape of the earth, where it met the water, even seeing the leaves on the trees as we began descending a bit. And on the way back, I really enjoyed being so close to the ground we could see everyone's pools! I love traveling that way.
Some people asked if I was afraid or flying, especially in such a small aircraft. Fear was never an emotion I encountered flying--- I was with Aaron and he was flying, which is what he likes best in the world! In fact, I was so comfortable that with the added the gentle vibrations of the plane and the sun warming the cabin, I almost fell asleep!
Flying this way, surrounded by windows so you can see on all sides, is amazing. I feel like before in a bus or train, I was looking at pieces of a huge painting close up, but, in the plane, I am able to see just how beautiful the picture is when all the pieces are put together.