On December 4th, 2010, I had the opportunity to take the left seat for the first time. Well, I got to fly in the left seat in a Glastar a few months ago, but that wasn’t the same thing. I got to take the left seat in the Little Plane (I love the little plane), the N7292J.
I still wasn’t 100% comfortable taking that seat. Feels right for me to be in the right seat. No, I don’t like being in the back seat. Yes, I very much like being co-pilot.
The first leg of the trip was from Saratoga to Keene, NH. My trusty pilot flew into 5B2 to pick me up, and stepped out of the N7292J to let me in. In to the left seat. I climbed in and tried to settle comfortably. Not panic, but a certain discomfort settling in. Well, Captain Glickman assures me he can do EVERYTHING from the right seat. Prove it. Where’s the brake? OK. You can stop the plane with the emergency brake. I’ll take that.
Door latched, seat belts securely fastened. Start the plane. Yes, he walked me through every step. No, I couldn’t possibly do this on my own. So, we started up, taxied out to runway 23, went through the runup, and prepared for takeoff. Down the runway (do you go “down” a runway?) and into the air. Again, as usual, I’m a bit too aggressive on the takeoff and I need to remember to keep the nose down a bit more. Too steep an incline is just NOT a good thing. Yes, I know that. Need to really feel it. Brain needs to connect. It will. Can’t help it if I just want to CLIMB!
Followed the heading to KEEN, feeling pretty confident about the “flying through the air from the left seat” part. I feel pretty comfortable flying the Little Plane. It likes me. Then … of course, over the hilly terrain, turbulence. I’ve had turbulence before while flying from the right seat. This just hit a bit hard for my taste, caught me off guard and made my tummy do a few flips. Took me a generous few seconds, and a kind word or two from the captain, and I felt in control again — feeling the plane react to the air, and compensating each time. I like to think I handled it well. At least I know that I can calm myself immediately, and know that the plane will respond to me. There is a zen connection that’s there, that I know will grow. That I know will be different with every aircraft. I understand how my flyboys know and feel their planes now.
On route, still to KEEN, winds calming down. Finding the right altitude to get over the little mountains. Happy. Getting closer and thinking about landing. Well, I landed the plane last weekend from the right seat, I can do this from the left. Captain talking me through the approach, coming in on final, the winds hit. I knew immediately that this was beyond my abilities, so please, Mr. Flyboy, take over and bring the plane safely to the ground. Yes, he took over and landed us safely. Watching the effort put into that landing affirmed my decision to give back command of the ship. I am most proud of myself for recognizing my limitations. I would have damaged that aircraft for sure. I might have been ready to land a plane last weekend, but I wasn’t ready for that crosswind!
Taxied off runway and headed into the FBO for a lovely lunch and presentation by John Katsaros, a B-17 crew member and WWII POW. Great stories from his war years. Miraculous rescue by the French resistance. Miraculous recovery from being up against so much. Lovely event.
Got to meet another female pilot (it’s my intent to meet and talk to as many as possible!), and talked about being a woman and learning to fly. I asked for a ride in her plane in the future (her plane is named “stud”). I want to ride with another woman!
Heading out of KEEN, I got to takeoff (back in the right seat, whew!), but as soon as we were in the air, we came to the conclusion that the captain had left his gloves back at the FBO. “I’ll take it”, he says and suddenly we’re on short approach back to the runway (and I mean SHORT). This was by far the coolest (hottest) bit of maneuvering I’ve been privileged to witness. Swoop, swoop, and I swear that wing tip was 6 inches from the runway and the plane leveled instantly and we were touching down like a feather. Impressed doesn’t cut it. Awed. Yeah. Awed. Wow. Too beautiful. Fellow pilot holding for takeoff sees this and says, “that was nice”. Yeah. Ahem. Nice.
FBO people run out and ask if there’s an emergency. Yeah, he forgot his gloves. They were in awe too. It was truly gorgeous maneuvering. What I learned from this? You need to know your plane. It was like the two of them were completely connected. I will have that someday. I know I will.
Lovely flight from KEEN to KBDR. I flew part of the way (yes, right seat). Gorgeous sunset, and kept heading off course because I wanted to fly into the sun. Coming into Bridgeport, I swear I couldn’t find the damn airport. Thought I saw the runway lights, but nah. Captain finds the runway and turns up the runway lights. Lands us beautifully.
Headed by car (thanks to Kevin) to a holiday party, hosted by pilot Julia Ryan. Yay! Another female pilot! Turns out that there were just as many female pilots at the party as male, and what a great evening hearing stories and learning from everyone there. I love how pilots have stories like anglers do (yes, I’m an avid angler). Felt like I belonged in this crowd. Love how everyone supports a new-to-flying-almost-student-pilot. Love the sharing nature of this community. Welcomed warmly and what a way to spend an evening.
Hopping back to the airport and catching a quick nap in Kevin’s car while the captain heated the plane a bit. Ready to head home, I jumped back into the N7292J and we took off heading back to 5B2. With a strong headwind, Captain Glickman figured we’d be better off at 8,500 ft, so we climbed and climbed and climbed. Skies were clear where we were, but the captain noted the cloud layer where we were headed. So, we’ll be up above the clouds and avoid icing. Yes, I learned about icing, and what to watch for. Always learning. My favorite part.
As the cloud layer approached, we flew over it. Nothing but stars above us and a blanket of thin clouds below. So thin that the populated areas were lit up from below as bright white patches. It was like we were floating over an alien landscape. I think our conversation may have strayed to my alien abduction at some point. Yes, I was tired. And it was so different and so beautiful. Yes, I want to go to the stars.
We could see the cities along the Hudson. “There’s Albany, and there’s Troy”. Captain waited long enough and then asked for IFR for our descent into 5B2. What a beautiful flight through the cloud layer with the cities coming into view through the vapor. Gorgeous. Easy landing onto runway 23. Plane tied down for the evening like a little toy. Please don’t blow away, Little Plane. Sorry we’re leaving you outside in the cold.
By then it’s somewhere around 1:30 AM on Sunday. Time for some sleep. Time to dream about pink Hello Kitty seaplanes (yes, I will have one someday). What an amazing day of aeronautical adventure and stories.
What an amazing day of learning to fly.
Thank you, as always, Captain Glickman.