Reflections on flying

As a consequence of my flying lessons, I’ve found that I’m much more aware of the sky than I was in the past. I think I thought of it vaguely as a transparent lid, an empty space above my head that occasionally contained things that impinged on my life, like rainclouds or noisy police helicopters. Now I spot clouds wherever I go, and I notice their types from a pilot’s perspective: how high? moving how fast? cumulus or cirrus? threatening or not?

I feel like my view has been elevated, literally: I see the sky and notice its characteristics. My eyes are also drawn to its artificial occupants; I spot planes and helicopters, try to determine their direction of travel, notice when I must be near an airport due to a clear traffic pattern, and wonder when I see a plane in an unusual location. Like any learning process, it’s as if a new code has been unlocked: I see meaning that I would previously have been blind to.

Some of the biggest highlights of my primary flight training that stand out are:

  • Doing intentional spins in a Citabria over Santa Paula (and coming out of them)
  • Taking my mom for a sightseeing tour of L.A. (with my instructor)
  • Flying to Santa Maria, then Porterville, then back to L.A. (all by myself!)
  • Night flying over L.A. (it’s gorgeous)

And some things that I really enjoy doing:

  • Soft-field takeoffs, in which you nose up into the air and then stay as low as you can until you build up speed to climb out of ground effect. It makes me feel like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, every time.
  • Unusual attitudes, in which you close your eyes and your instructor does crazy things with the airplane and then has you open your eyes and save the plane. This means recovering from a dive or a steep climb. Love it! (Probably because I can’t see outside the plane. You do this with a “view limiting device” that means you can only see the instruments.)

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I knew this already. I learned something new!