Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fun Monday - High Life


Mariposa is our host for Fun Monday this week:

High moments...in our lives! If you could share to us 3-5 high moments in your lives...this could be funny moments...the you can't believe you did it moments...the "I told you so" moments...or the times we asked the ground to go open and eat us moments! You need not write a book to explain them, the highlights will do.

High moments in my life... There are so many. The moments that made me laugh uncontrollably and tear stream down my face. The achingly beautiful moments when my life changed in fundamental ways. The days when I just feel good.

So rather than list all the high moments of my life (which would take a long, long time), I decided to highlight a couple that are important to me because they signified an accomplishment - of something unexpected, or being able to take care of myself when I wasn't sure I could.

As many of you know, my first marriage was quite rocky. That husband had wanted to fly all his life (his father was a pilot), but a crippling fear of heights made it impossible. So he pushed me to live his dream for him. My first small plane ride was nauseating - and exhilarating. As soon as we touched down, I wanted to go again. And so began the flying lessons. There were still times when it was terrifying, but after a series of touch and gos one day, my instructor told me to land - and then take off again - alone. He got out of the plane and waved me off. My husband was there and took this picture. That's me in that little silhouetted plane, all alone in the cockpit high above the ground. Talk about freedom!

Solo Flight


When I got back down, my instructor cut off part of my shirt and wrote on it. I found that scrap just the other day when I was looking for something else. It said: First Solo 3-17-89 Finally - you got close enough to the runway to land.

It was a big joke between me and my instructor. I was a genius at crosswind landings. The harder the wind blew, the bigger the correction, the smoother the landing. But straight-in landings? Regular landings would find me floating along just above the runway, seemingly unable to make the plane go down that final 10 feet or so until I got close to the end of the runway. And oddly enough, this particular "skill" may have saved my life.

Not long after my first solo, I was doing touch and gos at the little airport where I took my lessons. It was a small airport and lots of aerobatic planes worked out of it. The pattern was different for the aerobatic planes, which would, once off the ground turn right rather than left like the regular small planes, but the rules for using the pattern were the same. Those included radio contact and announcing your position.

Here I was in my little Cessna 150 (these have wings mounted on top of the fuselage), doing my practice take offs and landings. I was on final approach and had just added my first notch of flaps (which slow the plane down while still providing lift) when I caught sight of an aerobatic plane flying in UNDER me. He said nothing on the radio, and I had no idea what he was doing. Was he landing? Was he also doing touch and gos? I continued to slow and lose altitude, watching him do the same right beneath me. He finally pulled ahead, touched down on the runway, but rather than slowing down, continued at a high rate of speed down the runway. In the meantime, I'm still slowly losing altitude over the runway and am at about 15 - 20 feet trying to figure out what he's doing. My instructor is on the radio going crazy, but I'm too busy to respond. Is that other plane going to take off right in front of me? Or is he stopping? Finally, right at the end of the runway, he slows quickly and turns off - which leaves me hanging in mid-air.

I am still floating along, but I am too close to the end of the runway to land - and there's a large pond and a fence at the end of the runway. I am going so slow that I am close to stalling, which would mean I drop straight down about 20 feet and crash if I don't do anything soon. So I did something.

I pushed in the throttle and aimed the nose down. Mr. Instructor nearly had a heart attack and I actually heard him swearing as I gained just enough speed to pull up, just over the fence and climb back to pattern altitude. I circled around again and this time landed.

My instructor came running out to make sure I was okay and demanded to know where I'd learned how to do that because he sure as hell didn't teach that to me. It was instinct. I had enough knowledge to know the right course of action for that particular situation - and I had to believe that I could pull it off because if I didn't - I'd have been a crumpled heap at the end of the runway...

Amelia Bearheart was with me that day. So was luck - and knowledge - and the Higher Power that lets you know the right thing to do, if only you listen.

Stepping out of that plane will always be among my proudest moments. I managed to accomplish something that no one on the ground believed I could - and I lived to tell the tale.

20 comments:

the planet of janet said...

what an awesome memory and an awesome accomplishment!

SwampAngel65 said...

Coming from a family of pilots, I can really understand the fear and adrenaline you must've felt. Your instincts served you well! It's just too bad you don't fly anymore...you could fly down and see me!

(BTW, you have to let me know how the slipcovering went. I may try doing something to my rag of a couch.)

Mrs. Really Long Name said...

learned somethin' new....I had no idea you flew!

Love the photo.

But those planes - yeah, terrifying to me.

Pamela said...

whew... did I love that .

I'm ready to fly with you!!!!

movin' down the road said...

Oh wow. I hyperventilate in small planes. I can get by, but really dont care for them. Even the 12 seaters. Big planes are fine though. You are good!

That girl said...

Wow - you are full of surprises! I can't ever imagine getting into one of those planes, yikes!

You know what I loved about this though: You said your happy moments are too many to mention, that in itself is awesome and shows you lead a great life :-)

Mariposa said...

Whew! That made me high just by reading...

You've mentioned this before that you can fly...for real...reading this feels like I was there flying with you!

Love the photo!

Happy Fun Monday...

Faye said...

Have you kept your pilot's license current Sayre? What an empowering skill to have. I hope you have the luxury to escape in the sky occasionally--just you alone in the cockpit. Wonderful.

Celeste said...

Awesome story.

Recently, someone sent me an e-mail of a little stunt plane that lost a wing and the guy still managed to land the thing -- it was a rough landing, but....your story kind of reminded me of that.

Wow, what a neat memory!

Hootin' Anni said...

Fantastic!!! My brother was the pilot in our family, and I flew some with him...it was awesome. And I can so understand your thrill and pride.

Happy Monday.

Mine's posted, but you'll need to scroll down beyond my Ranch Hand Breakfast photos I posted this morning on my blog to read some of my 'memories'.

m (the misanthrope) said...

Wow, what a story!! Thanks for sharing!

Janis said...

You go girl! What a great high for you. Hope you can still get up in the sky and soar!

Sandcastle Momma said...

That is an amazing story! And how cool that you have that photo - wow!

I'm curious about the slip cover project. Will you post some pics after the holiday? I'd love to hear about it.

Karmyn R said...

Yowza! That was kind of scary but exciting. I always wanted to learn how to fly.

IamwhoIam said...

WOW -

Island Rider said...

Double wow. Amazing story. Well told.

Aoj and The Lurchers said...

Wow!! I am hugely impressed. Ithink I might have panicked just a little in that situation!

karisma said...

Oh, you are so brave! I am a bit scared of heights myself. But I would love to fly! Maybe one day! (With the pigs you know?) Or if I suddenly become a brave person too!

ChrisB said...

Wow what an amazing story.
My son-in-law is longing to learn to fly he has had a few lessons but has just changed jobs so everything is on hold at the moment.

Sarah said...

What a stunning story. Brilliant memory to have. I bet your instructor remembers that day too!

Thanks for sharing your fun monday, sorry it's taken me til tuesday to get to it!