Kathryn Spurgeon

Flying Lesson #4

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I find my Complete Private Pilot textbook again, which I misplaced for the past few weeks, probably unconsciously hiding it. It does not simplify itself upon retrieval and I start reading back on Chapter 1.

Glenn, my certified flight instructor, and I do ground tracking again, following Highway 51, west from Guthrie toward Hennessey and Okeene. Should be a straight line, but somehow the plane easily wanders off course. A little head strong, I assume. Either the plane, or me. Officially, it’s called ground reference maneuvers. I read that these maneuvers are conducted and taught for a few reasons. The article states:

“The first reason is to understand how wind affects an airplane in flight. While on the ground, an airplane experiences friction with the surface, and therefore can be pointed on a certain heading while not “drifting.” After liftoff, however, the wind dictates how the airplane will “track” over the ground. A generic statement would be that an object’s path or track is dictated by the medium by which it is surrounded.”

Huh? Am I on the right page? I assume the reason I’m learning to follow this road is to look at a runway and line the plane up correctly enough to land. Right? No need to know more. Wrong. “Ground reference maneuvers are instrumental in helping you cope with wind while turning.” Hm….. wind?

Back to my actual flight lesson. During this fourth hour I’m supposed to learn to fly at a slow speed. Wow. I am amazed. I didn’t realize a plane could stay afloat at only 80 miles at hour! Glenn reduces the throttle, keeps the nose up, adjusts the trim and …. what’s that again? Maybe he’ll repeat it next time. He’s really good at saying, “I’m not sure if I told you this, but …” without making me feel like a dummy.

To land, it’s vital to learn to fly at slow speeds, like slowing down a car, except more complicated. Glenn lets me land the plane, i.e. he says he’s letting me land but I have a sneaking suspicion he has his hand on the controls. It goes really well. I think it’s doable. 

Postscript #1:

I ask my pilot husband to help me practice flying. Spouses are not the best teachers, I learned through experience, hence the real instructor. But I think my husband can help me learn to fly in circles. I hate to spend thousands for an instructor to repeat the same thing over and over, my slow learning taken into consideration. My husband says yes, but he is too busy. Maybe that is as it should be.

I’m also lucky enough to have a pilot stepson. One who flies a Cessna Citation CJ3 for a wealthy individual and has some free time through the week. He agrees to fly with me after his required three landings to remember how to fly the plane… It has been a few years since he’s flown a little one-engine four-seater.

We are both a little nervous. My stepson, because the Grumman doesn’t have all the safety features of the Citation; all the bells and whistles and buttons that light up. And me, because I’m not sure if he knows what I know, or if he knows what I don’t know or if he doesn’t know what I’ll never know. I am afraid he’ll say, like my husband, just fly it!

So here we go. “Just do whatever you want to do,” he says as soon as we’re off the ground.

I glance at him warily and say, “But the instructor tells me what to do.” I can tell this will not be a pleasant experience for him.

I feel proud when he says, “Make a right circle,” and I can actually do it. Landing, however is a different matter. I hesitate. He expects me to know how to land. But I have only landed once with an instructor who knows my fears and weaknesses. I take my hands off the control and yell into the headset, “I don’t want to. You land it.”

Of course, this information gets passed on to my husband who proceeds to tell me I have no confidence. “I’m taking lessons, aren’t I,” I retort. Bravery my fall back. I decide not to give up the lessons. Who knows, I may save his life some day.

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Author: Kathryn Spurgeon

Christian writer and speaker Memory House Publishing

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