Saturday, October 15, 2005

There's an 11-year old sitting in the pilot's seat

Ship's Log, October 5, 2005

Vinny is Pilot-in-Command with his mother and me in the backseat, holding on for dear life.

There's an accompanying video clip:

How To Freak Out Your Mother (4.3 MBs)

I swear, I broke into a sweat just editing the video clips! All those nosedives, steep climbs, and hard banking gave me the heebie-jeebies!

If you want to see a higher-resolution version of our bumpy skyride, click here for access to the 19.8 MB MPEG-4.

Let's backtrack a bit:

My friend Berit from Hamburg and her son, Vincent, arrived in Philadelphia on Sep 30 and drove to Scranton the following afternoon to attend the wedding. On Sunday, they drove to New York for a couple of days, and returned to Scranton for a couple of days to visit with us more.

David was very much looking forward to taking Vinny up in the Piper Tri-Pacer -- it combines several of his favourite activities:

1) flying
2) sharing his love of aviation, and
3) passing that enthusiasm on to kids.

But alas, he was cooped up in the hospital, so I took a chance and drove Berit and Vinny to our airport in the hopes one of the other pilots would take Vinny up for a spin. I couldn't find anyone, but I stopped by the Airport Cafe and picked up some instructors' business cards to try to set up an appointment for the next morning. The cafe owners said the aircraft mechanics were gone for the day, but I noticed some vehicles still in their parking lot. The hangar doors were open, so I talked to the owner and he said he'd call around for an instructor. He found one!

The Instructor (who shall remain nameless since I've shown this scary videoclip) took us up in a Piper Cherokee, very relaxed and friendly. He put Vinny in the pilot's seat (left side), but there are controls on both sides, so we thought that was for effect.


While the plane was still in ascent, The Instructor asked Vinny, "Do you want to fly the plane?"

Haha. Uh, is this legal? Or, more importantly, is this safe?

Without any briefing at all, Vinny flew the plane practically the WHOLE TIME. And I say "flew" in the loosest possible way -- I doubt we were level more than 5% of the time. I mean, look at the video! Because of the bright sunlight, it's hard to see where the horizon is some of the time, but notice how the shadows move? Steep ascent! Steep descent!

If you can't make out some of the dialogue, here's some of what The Instructor had to say:

"Now that you've got the roller coaster thing down, let's try nice, smooth turns..."

So much for a scenic flight. I don't think Berit's eyes were open.

"Berit, you should kiss the ground after we land. You know, like the Pope."