Whirrr-eell..WHIRRR-EELLL – WHIRRR-Eeelll.. The variometer squealed in rising & descending tones, alternating between barely audible and a screech as terrifying as crumpling styrofoam.
You might be wondering why I was strapped into a canary yellow rust bucket. Baking under that Southern California sun, as my flight instructor and I waited for our tow plane, I was was wondering the same thing.
Yet, once we were airborne at three thousand feet, where that cool, rarefied air streamed all around our fuselage, it all comes back – I remember what it feels like to almost be a creature of the sky. Not something struggling to get up in the air, but something that really “slipped those surly bonds” and soared.
“Look over there,” my instructor pointed out. A small circle of red hawks had gathered over a small hilltop. Lift – that sweet warm, rising air which extends our flight time.
Of course, I was still paying for every minute of my instructor. But at the same time, each minute we logged up in the air got me closer to my solo qualification, and the longer we stayed up, the less I needed to spend on another tow fee.
Soaring in a glider also finally forced me to get the feel of flying – something I never had developed in powered aircraft.
No, Schweizer 2-33’s aren’t much to look at – they don’t have the sexiness of the Grob, which is what movies typically used. But they do allow student pilots to cheaply fill up flight logs and get their glider certification, aka “ticket” – to take that dream date.
Over time I realized that something was missing – maybe I had numbed myself with one too many roller coaster rides back in college. In any case I didn’t get sea-sick or air-sick like my other buddies, because my inner ear just didn’t work as well.
Seasoned flight instructors tried unsuccessfully to get me sick.
On the one hand it was great to have this tolerance, or whatever it’s called. On the other maybe it made me less sensitive to the bumps and feel of flight that good pilots have.
Years later, I finally developed some sense of “feel” on the mat in aikido and on the dance floor in tango.
Here’s the thing. How we do one thing is how we do everything. And the sad part is that while we would rather not feel sadness, or those emotions we consider “negative,” people like Jenny Lawson, who deal with severe bouts of depression, pay a high price by becoming numb to other feelings like joy and happiness.
As much as I hate to admit it, that old yellow bucket of rust was more than a few cheap thrills. She taught me a thing or two about flying, but most of all, that I still had a lot to learn!