I had the privilege of flying and it was beautiful.
My friend Bernardo invited me to fly around Seattle. These invitations are frequent, and finally the schedule worked out. He is a pilot, the sort that seems to evaluate weather based on fly-ability rather than comfort. The web-link is to some of his professional photography, which are of airplanes, and oh, he’s also an aerospace engineer. It was not just an invitation to fly, but it was a chance to join a friend with one of his passions.
I plotted a non-highway route to the Renton Municipal Airport and road my motorcycle on a gloriously clear day. Rainier Avenue curves at speed, rare for a road in Seattle, and I had a great trip there, though I also added to the mental list of “things to fix”. I was in an unfamiliar area, so the excursion already felt like an adventure. It paled in comparison to the adventure in the air. Given that his co-owned plane is in the shop, Bernardo rented an Evektor Sportstar. See that bubble for a windscreen in the wikipedia picture? It leads to a glorious, unobstructed view.
You can see everything. All of the living, breathing moments and ways the area fits together is laid out below you. I love a novel sight. My motorcycle has been playing the role of the vehicle to new things. Sitting in its saddle, I quickly pass people, cars, buildings, and trees. I absorb the details, but I cannot see very far ahead. High in the sky, in this airplane, your eyes can get a piece of everything. I expected it to feel a bit like omniscience. Instead, I felt small, knowing that generally I am one of those specks on the ground in a bustling place, as oppose to my temporary place as a speck 2700 feet off the ground.
My headset didn’t work, which was fine because I was mostly speechless. I still struggle to put describe the experience in a way more sophisticated than a teenager enthusiastically declaring, “THAT’S SO COOL!” Bernardo could talk loud enough for me to hear, and so he taught me how the airplane’s controls work. He invited me to attempt flying over Lake Sammamish. I grabbed the stick and… the plane wobbled. A lot. This was the quintessential moment of being pushed out of my comfort zone. I trust Bernardo’s piloting skills, and feared nothing as a passenger. I appreciated them even more when I personally discovered how difficult it really is to keep that plane straight. After a few pitches and a very hard bank to the left, it occurred to me that a mistake could lead us to fall out of the sky. Yikes. Bernardo reassured me that planes are good at flying (as an aerospace engineer, he’d know) and encouraged me to keep trying. I rocked the plane in a jagged fashion trying to aim it back at Renton. Just when I thought I would kill us both (with a certainty that was perhaps a bit hyperbolic), he took over. I now have about .2 hours of flight time. Hopefully Bernardo did not lose any years off his life.