Getting Started Do you remember that first day?
The building was a hulking blue, metal-sided affair, pockmarked by a nondescript doorway and a window air purifier –but no window. It might have been difficult to reconcile the uninspiring look with the promise held in if not to get a indication which declared:”short rides, you fly the plane. Air-conditioned couch and gift shop.”
So I pulled up to Ocean Aviation in Ocean City, Maryland, with two grandsons in tow. We’re there for introductory f lights for Clemens, 15 years old, and Graham Robinson, 12, who live not far away in Delaware. Noelle in the front desk had been really helpful setting up the 2 flights, assigning us to CFI Justin Mallory. It was hot–91 degrees Fahrenheit.
We delve to the Part 141 flight school, appreciative of that air conditioning. Mike Freed, the manager, came outside to say hello. Justin was still airborne but would be in soon. Noelle analyzed the boys’ passports because they would be in the left chair; such scrutiny is a consequence of 9/11.
Justin arrived shortly afterwards, looking remarkably fresh given his previous hour in a sexy, un-airconditioned small airplane.
Soon we were walking outside to preflight the 1975 Cessna 172. Justin estimated that the plane had over 4,000 hours under its belt. That seemed about perfect. Justin led the boys through a preflight test, exceptionally patient, clear and thorough, and that I clamored awkwardly into the rear seat. It was hard to track how much of this the boys were carrying in.
We’d procured permission from Mike to f ly to Delaware Coastal Airport (KGED), in which the boys live, to switch pilots after landing and shutting down. Clemens took the left chair. For all our time flying together, he had never been there. Justin started the Lycoming, stating to Clemens:”The engine is still hot. Examine the oil temperature.” A curt nod indicated the pilot understood. Having a clatter, we taxied out to Runway 14 and also did our run-up. To me, it had been Clemens gripping the yoke.Justin’s hands were at his lap.
I can’t deny that the pride I took in seeing my oldest grandchild hold altitude and heading with apparently inborn intuition. I know that he and his brother have invested a great deal of time on flight-simulator apps, but maintaining a 172 level in a turn isn’t simple. I watched our path and groundspeed on ForeFlight: 3,500 ft and 96 knots.
We turned to enter the downwind for Runway 22 in KGED. We jumped to 1,000 feet and kept constant there. On base, I could watch incremental flap extensions. On final, I looked up to see that the 15-year-old was flying the plane. His face sported a look of intense concentration seasoned with a sign of joy. Justin took charge and chirped us .
Mother and dad came outside to scrutinize the goings on. Clemens’ grin was clear –with his COVID-19 mask , sneaking out of every side of his face covering. No virus can ruin the atmosphere when you first fly an airplane. Pictures were taken and chairs were switched. Graham mounted a particular cushion to boost visibility and reported he could get to the rudder pedals–and, even more significant, the brakes. Patient instruction was repeated for the benefit of the new pilot. Of the two, Graham is the person who is continually sending me videos of his landings on flight-simulator apps. Our rate crept up, and we leveled off at 3,000 feet. I was happily surprised by innate airmanship–not hereditary because I’ve minimum innate piloting skills. Ocean City came back into view. To Clemens and me at the back seat, it seemed like we had been too high to make the left base for Runway 14. “This will be interesting,” I said to Clemens. But our pilots had another strategy. We flew across the whole airport and entered the abandoned foundation for 20–a circling approach if I ever saw one. The younger grandson was still in charge, I could see, until Justin kissed us on the runway. We turned off on a taxiway where, thank goodness, the opened windows provided us with Cessna air conditioning.
Justin closed down us, and we waited while the young pilot shot at the magical sound of the gyros winding down. “I got extra flying,” he hollered. The Hobbs meter read 0.6 hours to get the trip to Delaware and 0.8 hours back, though we had a greater groundspeed due to the winds. It appeared that this 0.2 hour discrepancy would be the subject of much sibling discussion in the future. Logbooks were bought, filled out and signed. There was some discussion of”really flying an airplane” Justin was quizzed on the landing flare.
We walked to the hangar/flight college, chatting with Justin about his career plans and his next goal: CFI-I. I found a Flying magazine and signed it to the people at Ocean Aviation.
There’s plenty of lament nowadays about lack of attention among the young in regards to flying airplanes. Their focus could easilybe commandeered by electronic devices that simulate flight but don’t offer you the sounds, smells and texture of a real airplane. The price tag is just another barrier. These discovery flights were 299 each. Most estimates for a private certificate are in the $12,000 to $14,000 range. As Graham said,”I figure I must mow a whole lot more lawns.” It read:”Discovery flight: climbs, turns, descents, pilotage, dead reckoning. Day 0.8. Double 0.8. “Do you remember that first day?