On April 3, 2010, I climbed aboard the N7292J (Joel Glickman’s Cherokee 140) for what I termed the “Sheer Panic” flight. Irrationally afraid of flying, this flight was to be the first flight on my path to overcoming my fear. Instead, this flight became the first flight on my path to becoming a private pilot.
I’m one of those people who can stand in front of a room of 1,000 people and speak without breaking a sweat. Getting on a plane was another story. I fly for work all the time. In the past, it would take 2 or 3 pills and a few cocktails to get me ON the plane. Then, I’d pass out and wake up at our destination. Folks traveling with me knew that if there was a change of plane that they’d have to deal with a semi-comatose version of the Phylise Banner they thought they knew. The office knew that they had to fly me everywhere a day early so that I could recover. Not anymore.
Getting to know the flyboys was through the Albany Sushi Meetup group. My initial comment when invited on a flight in one of the little planes was “you’ll get me in your bed before you’ll get me in that plane”. Yes, a bit vulgar, but there was no way they were getting me in their bed … so it worked for me. Well, I was wrong. The plane … I’m talking about the plane here …
I found out in mid-March that my sister had breast cancer. Threw me completely off and I didn’t know what to do, how to react, how to act, how to think. She is the closest thing in the world to me. I realized that losing her was by far my biggest fear, and every other fear paled in comparison. I needed some sort of action. I needed to conquer something.
I loved watching the adventures of the flyboys unfold on Facebook. Photos of flights and antics. Stories of flights in person at dinners. I was envious of what they were doing, where they were going, their passion. The progression was anything but natural, but I somehow went from my core of fear to “please take me up in your little plane”.
Trusting Captain Glickman as being the flyboy less likely to do something to frighten the hell out of me, I asked for my flight. “Yes, we can do that”, he says, and gives me the date of our trip. For the following week and a half, he responded to every email, every text, every ridiculous note of panic, and walked me through my approach to the “Sheer Panic” flight.
On flight day, I videotaped the landing as he came to get me at 5B2 to fly to KMPV. The best part isn’t the plane landing, but my remarks as the plane approached where I was waiting. Yes, there were many expletives. What was I thinking? Oy!
Once in the air, feeling like maybe this was going to be OK, thinking maybe this will be manageable, he tells me to breathe. Tells me to look around. Yes, it’s beautiful up here. Yes, this is really not so bad. No, I’m not going to pass out.
Then he asks to see my hands. I put them out, palms up, like he’s going to tell me my future or something. He took my hands and placed them on the yoke. Then I looked over and he wasn’t holding on. I was flying the plane. Me. Flying.
Yes, that was it. All it took. That and complete trust. And the faith and encouragement of my friends and family. Proud that I got over the fear, and understanding that this mermaid belongs in the sky. Belongs at the helm of a pink Hello Kitty seaplane (yes, I will have one someday).
This blog will highlight my adventures in the sky (and on the ground), and the path that I am traveling to get my private pilot’s license. The flights I take, the people I meet, the stories I hear, the achievements and the disappointments.
Thanks go to both of my flyboys, Joel Glickman and Ed Haddad, for enticing me with their adventures in the first place, and for inviting me to fly with them as often as possible. They each hold a very special place in my heart.
Special thanks to Captain Glickman, the pilot of the N7929J, for trusting me enough to take me on as his co-pilot, for teaching me how to fly, and for giving me back the sky.
(Header Photo: Me after flying from 5B2 to KMPV on April 3, 2010, aka the Sheer Panic flight.)