RED DRESS. . . 1 of 2
I entered the office for the first time, all excited about this new adventure I was about to embark on. It took years of planning and saving up for probably the most rewarding spending that I have ever done. I took the step, deciding now there was no going back. I walked through the door and was met by a sea of new, but welcoming faces inviting me to join their elite club.
As I approached the counter the Queen Bee welcomed me.
‘Thank you for coming into our humble establishment, and may we help you spend your money?‘ she said with a smile. Yea, I thought, I’m sure you’d like to help me spend it, in large amounts.
‘Hello, yes indeed you may. I would like to sign up for all you have’ said I with no hesitation.
The balance of the hour was spent in paperwork. Then finally after what seemed forever she introduced me to the all the professionals.
‘Make sure you get what you pay for’ Queen Bee said with a naughty glint in her eye. Then I saw her for the first time.
‘Aaah I hope I get her’ I thought. ‘She seems pretty nice, please, please… I will spend with a smile’ the silent prayer ran through my mind.
Prayers are not always answered. I got the old one, and a man at that. Why can I not have what I want, seeing that I am paying anyway?! None the less the old man was not bad. We started off with briefings and the magical moment that I had been waiting for. Finally, I got to be inside. My excitement now built up, rearing into the red and beyond. Yes there I was, taking it up for the first time. Guided by the well experienced, it could not go wrong.
The moment was there. ‘Take her gently but firmly‘, he told me. ‘Don’t be afraid, she only bites when you lose respect, take control ‘. I took her as instructed. Firm touch in hand, all the way now.
As we rolled down the runway, she gently lifted off, yes, yes, I had done it! ‘I am in the air. I have done this all by myself!’ That’s what I thought at first. It would be much later that my instructor told me that he in fact did help a touch here and there, but mostly it was me in control. It did not matter. What did matter was that it was one of the finest moments I ever had. Flying was for the birds till man rose to the challenge, and now it was for me too.
The next few days were much of the same routine. How it all worked would be explained first in a pre-flight briefing, followed shortly by the actual air experience. It was amazing, the learning curve was intense. Every day became better than the last.
Eventually it was time for the most important lesson of all. The law of gravity. The law of gravity states that what goes up must come down. Now unfortunately this was a lot easier said than done. Or put more accurately, to make landing survivable was easier said than done. Just coming down was the easy bit, avoiding the life threatening thump at the end was the real challenge.
This part of the learning process took longer than the first part of training. During these sometimes very tense and death defying acts of stupidity, the thought dawned that maybe I was just not that good. After all, it was a club of very few members I was attempting to join. Was I really cut out to be one of them?
I became more than just a student to my instructor; he took a personal interest in me. Maybe he did that to all of his students, but I did feel special. During one of the coffee breaks we had at one of my new favorite coffee shops, she walked past. He asked her if she wanted to join us for a coffee. To my delight she accepted.
We spoke again of my problem with landing. I was getting more and more depressed with the fact that I could not gently “paint“ the wheels onto the runway like my instructor did. He suggested that she should fly with me. ‘Get the insight from someone else, don’t worry’ he said, ‘the penny will drop soon enough.’
The next morning, Tuesday, I did the pre-flight on the aircraft. I was more nervous than I could ever remember being. I had to try and avoid killing someone new, and I finally had my wish granted; a flight with the most awesome chick pilot that I had ever laid eyes on.
‘Good morning‘, she said warmly and softly. ‘Don’t worry, and relax. I will just sit here and be quiet ‘, she said.
‘Hello, oh, okay, ‘was all I could muster without a crack in my voice. ‘Do we need to brief before we go? ’ I asked.
‘You know what to do, just do it ‘ she replied with a smile, and with that I gulped and began the routine.
Pre start completed, ready for the fire to roar. The little engine of the C150 spluttered and stuttered as she bravely sprang to life. Start checks done, off we went. The take off was perfect. We flew all the way around the circuit to the final leg, where the earth rushed up to greet us in its deathly solid form. Very close now, she still had said nothing. ‘Was this good? What did I forget?‘ I kept thinking to myself. Over the runway now, up, down. ‘This is not going well, why isn’t she correcting me?‘ was running through my mind. ‘No time to think about this anymore, fly the damn plane.’ I had a controlled crash onto the runway and yet still she was calm and collected. ‘What is wrong with you woman, why didn’t you correct me?‘
‘Again‘ she said. I complied and we were off again.
‘ Relax, you are too tense.’ She finally started speaking. ‘You are doing great, now enjoy the landing. Get your feet working and relax your shoulders. Look at your hands; you are clenching them so hard your fingers have gone pale. Take the controls with two fingers, like drinking tea with the Queen of England‘. Her voice was soothing and sincere.
The time came again to crash and burn. ‘No, not this time’ I thought, ‘I will make it perfect. Flare just one meter from the hard stuff‘. Holding the tea cup, ‘What a weird thought I had at the most impossible time. And then the landing. Like painting the wheels onto the back of the runway. And off we went again. ‘Really, that was me?‘, I asked her.
‘Yes, all just you. Now was that so darn difficult?‘ She said in a gently mocking tone.
With new found confidence I repeated the same steps over and over for two or so more landings. I was just about to get in the habit of doing this like the pro’s when she talked on the radio. ‘Tower, MPG (mike papa golf), request full stop landing ‘. ‘What? Why? How come are you doing this to me now? It is going so well! Please don’t stop now!‘ I was having all these thoughts, but said nothing. ‘Oh well, then I guess I have to make this even a better than perfect landing‘.
The landing was superb. As we taxied off the runway she started speaking again.
‘That was very well done, why did you have a problem? All that I saw was tension, no skill problems‘.
‘Uuhm, well thank you. I think I was just getting into it. Just a pity is was so short‘ I said in a mumbled tone. ‘Why did it have to end so soon? My flight with the special woman that made my heart miss a beat when I walk past her in the office? ‘No not now, keep the brain focused!
‘Its not over ‘she said laughing. ‘It’s just begun as a matter of fact.’ Stopping the aircraft, but not killing the engine.
‘What do you mean?‘ I said, confused.
She looked at me, ‘Well, why are you here, what do you want to do? I am sure it’s not to fly around with me the whole day. You are ready. The time for you to spread you own wings without me. Remember, gentle china tea cup‘. And with that she got out the aircraft leaving me to my first solo flight.
All over again, all the same procedures. Exciting yes, and super scary at the same time. Adrenalin through the roof. ‘ Check, all done, check again. What did I forget? ‘. All done. Relax and land the plane. And with that all the excitement, the buildup was completed. The perfect landing. I taxi off the runway. Stop the aircraft and complete the checks.
She was there first, ‘So how does it feel to be a real pilot?’ I was still in a dream.
‘Did I really just do that? Time seems to have stood still!’ Is all I got out.
For the next few minutes it was coming back to earth in a different way, all the rest of my class mates having cheered and congratulated me. Even though it was not a class in the conventional sense since all training was done one on one, there were a few of us at the same stage of the program. I was the third solo that day.
‘Party Friday ‘, Lee shouted.
‘Settled!‘ I said. ‘Will you be there Miss T? After all you are responsible for this!’ I said with a smile.
‘Maybe, the week is still long. Will advise.’ She smiled.