Kendall and I like to keep most of our weeks pretty exciting, but this week started out in a very special way. Due to a generous gift from Kendall’s parents for Christmas and helping out with their website, I took an introductory private pilot lesson at Learn to Fly San Diego.
I was bitten with a bit of an aviation bug at a young age. I was a season pass holder at Seattle’s Museum of Flight when I lived there for a year at age six. Later on in elementary school, I spent hours taking simulated Cessnas on cross country voyages in Microsoft Flight Simulator. I even purchased a few books on obtaining a private pilot’s license when I discovered one could start accumulating the necessary hours to qualify for one even before being old enough to have a driver’s license.
Anyway, we started Monday off by delaying our trips to work and school, and heading over to Montgomery Field. Learn to Fly had a non-assuming office in a strip mall adjacent to the field, where we met our flight instructor for the day (also named Joe). Just a few minutes passed, and we were headed over to the tarmac without signing so much as one waiver. We proceeded right into the pre-flight checks, stopping for a few photo-ops along the way. It wasn’t long before the plane was fired up, and we were requesting to taxi to the runway.
We picked up speed down the runway, with hangers and the 805 freeway growing bigger in the window at a somewhat unnerving speed. A slight pull back on the yoke was all it took to smoothly pull us into the air and put a huge smile on my face.
We continued west, towards the radio towers topping Mt. Soledad. I completed my first turn over La Jolla Shores as we headed north, slightly off the coast. The view of Black’s Beach and Torrey Pines Golf Course from the air was extremely impressive.
We continued as far as the Del Mar Fairgrounds before making a 180 degree turn back down the coast. The instructor gave me a few pointers on coordinated turns (using the yoke and rudder together correctly) and initiating climbs and descents.
In what felt like far too little time, we approached Montgomery as my instructor gave me a courteous warning not to head for MCAS Miramar – I’m happy to report that I could work my way around the skies of San Diego well enough that I wouldn’t have made that mistake. We descended, turned into the pattern, and landed west on the same runway we departed from.
The flight was an awe-inspiring experience, and I’m so very glad to be able to check off something that’s been near the top of my bucket list for so many years. Even if aviation isn’t the fantasy for you that it is for me, I’d highly recommend taking an intro flight. The instructor was very good at explaining what was going on in a detailed and succinct way. He let me do a surprisingly large amount of the flying – he made some adjustments during take-off and landing, but I had the controls in hand the whole flight. I’d like to keep learning and fly more in the future, and hopefully that future is soon, because I fear that the aviation bug has returned stronger than ever.
P.S. Thanks again to Kendall’s parents for one of the best gifts I’ve ever received!
P.P.S. Many thanks to Kendall for taking all of the beautiful photos you see here, and being brave enough to go up with a decidedly inexperienced pilot!