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!
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.