Roh Learns to Fly

It all started with a yellow piece of paper.

“Introductory flying lesson at Pearson Air, 40 dollars!” I got an extra for my roommate. I kept that scrap for months until I could save up the money.

Well, actually it started earlier than that- when I flew in a Fairchild Metroliner from Moses Lake to Olympia, I remembered my childhood obsession with Amelia Eearhart. So the childhood obsession came first.

New beginning.  It all started when I told people that I would be a pilot.

At about two years of age, some neighbor said “you have such long fingers, are you going to play the piano when you grow up?” To which I responded “no, I’ll use them to reach the dashboard on my plane!”

So it started there, I guess. And continued.  My first flight was in an ultralight, a Flightstar II trainer. I went up to 2000 feet but was too scared to take the controls when they were offered to me.  I think the absence of a door or a full fuselage had a little to do with it. Thank goodness for five point restraints!  I overcame my normal reticence and snuggled up close to the pilot when we banked at an uncomfortable angle.

I enjoyed the flight and wanted to go up again- I didn’t get a chance until my 21st birthday, when I got a plane ride to visit my parents as a present, on that aforementioned Metroliner. I had a blast. A couple of tame commuter flights and a lot of dreaming later, we get to the beginning of this story.

The orchestra strikes an opening chord, the curtain rises. Our heroine is wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She is standing in the kitchen of a small apartment, holding a carefully unfolded yellow coupon, nervously preparing to call Pearson Air to schedule a flight lesson…

The roommate had gone up a week prior, so I knew what to expect. I knew that the instructor, whose name was Dave, would let me do most of the flying-unlike my intro flight in the ultralight. I called and made the arrangements, inwardly jumping up and down just to be TALKING to a pilot, let alone taking the first step toward becoming one myself.


19 May, 2002

That Saturday found me and the roommate at the Olympia airport, wending our way through the hangar, following little signs that said simply “flight training here.” Pearson Air was an interesting place, with a comfortable looking pilot’s lounge complete with couches, TV, water cooler and coffee pot. It had an interesting smell, too, sort of sweetish, possibly from upholstery cleaner. I made sure to wear my recently acquired flight jacket.

To my endless amusement, my new instructor was wearing something similar, along with a pair of aviator shades. Dave was a nice enough fellow, with dark curly hair and a relaxed way around him. There was no mention of paying in advance, or signing of paperwork, just an avuncular “let’s go flyin’,” and we were out the door.

The plane was parked nearby and we got in without preliminaries. He got the engine started and we were off. With a lot of help I taxied to the runway and he made the necessary radio calls. It felt natural to steer with my feet, but I wasn’t very good at it. Soon I found myself at the end of a big strip of concrete, with my own hands on the controls, my own keister in the left seat, and I was happier than anything. He worked trim and flaps and had me push power in- almost before I knew it, I was flying! I was entranced with just the idea of being in the air.

He showed me how to keep the plane level and guided me through some gentle turns. At one point I was concentrating on keeping the wings parallel with the horizon- I looked over and noticed that Dave didn’t have his hands anywhere near the controls. He was unconcernedly talking about landmarks. I was impressed. All those years of dreaming of flight, and I was finally doing it! My face was set to Permagrin.

Dave handled most of the landing, explaining what he was doing as he did it, letting me do as much as I could-not much. Dreamily, I floated back into the airport office. A fellow pilot (I assume) asked Dave how the flying was since he got his pilot’s license back, after the violations. Dave hastily explained that the person was kidding- but I already knew, and thought it was funny.

Then I wrote out my check to Pearson Air, and received a small Cessna-logo logbook. Inside was the notation “.5 hours. Intro to 152. Level turns, landings, takeoff,” and the instructor’s signature complete with license number. I handled that little booklet as if it were a relic from a lost civilization.

My face was stuck on Permagrin for most of that week. I couldn’t wait to get back. Unfortunately though, I didn’t get in the air again for several weeks… one lesson and I was hooked. It hadn’t been scary at all, but natural and fun. My fear of heights was nonexistent in the air.

For my birthday I got enough for two lessons. As soon as I could, I called in my reservation…

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