In 'A Passion for Flight Inherited' the seed was sown. Now it was time to take flight.
Can you remember your first flight? The first time that you sat at the controls and saw the world in a very different way?
For my part, I was just a small boy; able to see over the dashboard with the help of a cushion and able to reach the control column. However, the rudder pedals were far removed from my tiny feet. As my father completed his paperwork, I sat beside him with the sea of dials and digits in front of me. I rested my hands on the controls and he nodded in the affirmative. “Give it a go.” He insisted.
I tentatively moved the wheel to the left, only to see the panels on the outboard section of the two wings move up and down respectively. Slowly I reversed my input on the wheel and correspondingly those same panels reversed their positions. Dad paused from his tasks and explained that these were “Ay-ler-ons” and “rolled” the aircraft, a motion that he simulated with his hand. He then repeated the process and described the “elevators”, although this time I could only just see the lone horizontal panel move on the tail behind me.
Even so, I was fascinated. As a child, nothing much in the world responds to your commands. Yet here I was in a vehicle capable of flight and it was moving in response to my small hands. Amazing.
In due course Dad started the engine, spoke on the radio and completed the checklists that would allow this two seat aircraft to safely take to the air. When the time came to line up on the runway I stared ahead at the long strip of asphalt with its bold white centreline disappearing into the distance. Soon the noise levels rose and the spinning disc in front of me became totally transparent as we began to roll forward.
My eyes move to the side and I looked down at the wheel beside me, enveloped in a sleek pod-like fairing. “NO STEP” was boldly announced on its upper surface. The small details of the asphalt beneath the wheel were clearly visible but as our speed increased those details became a constant strip of black until the time came for the “NO STEP” pod to leave the earth.
The black strip now fell away and after a flash of white stripes, the black became the green of the airfield perimeter and a golf course and then the red tiles of roof after red roof. And then the entire roofs became tiles so high we were flying. Entire suburbs merged into a grand quilt of civilisation before petering out into rural pastures. In minutes we had transited miles and my eyes now rose to the horizon and the clear blue sky beyond.
My Dad wheeled the tiny Cessna left and right and I shadowed him on the controls. Those panels on the wing responded to his every command and I could imagine the air, like water, flowing about the wing. It was just as the pictures in my books had described it. And then he handed control over to me.
He raised both hands as if surrendering to show me that he no longer held the control column and called for me to gently roll to the left and the right just as he had shown me. Slowly, I did and he encouraged me to roll a little further each time. Those panels still responded to my small hands just as they had done on the ground, but this time it was very different. This time I was flying and my life would never be the same again.