When the day finally arrived, it still didn’t feel real. I don’t think I believed it until we cranked the starter on the engine.
April 2nd, 2015.
The adventure begins. Daylight Savings Time had settled in, the sun was going down later, and I happened to have a work engagement out in Kew Gardens, Queens. I figured this was as good a time as any, since being out there already put me halfway to KFRG. Well, sort of, but hey, it served as the kick in the pants I needed to make the phone call to the flight school. We set up an intro flight appointment for April 2, and I had the most restless two nights of sleep ever, like a kid before Christmas.
The CFI/co-owner of the flight school picked me up from the train station (what service!) and we headed towards the airport, having a chat and getting to know each other a bit. I told him about my obsession and previous “experience”, i.e. way too much flight simming, but reiterated that I was coming into this with a fresh perspective. I don’t know what I don’t know, and I don’t want to miss anything important.
I had been studying the written materials for about two months, though. I was hoping to get the written exam out of the way before even starting lessons, but that proved to be a bit ambitious. It is A LOT of material. I’m familiar with a number of the concepts and some of the theory, so I already have a leg up; I cannot imagine coming into this not knowing anything about aviation, my brain would explode. It already feels like it is overflowing.
The CFI had me follow him around for a quick pre-flight, so that we could maximize our time in the air. He started us up, gave me some taxiing practice on the way to RWY14, and after he took over the controls again, off we went! We lifted off the runway, and an uncontrollable smile crept across my lips as I watched the ground slip away beneath us. This was MUCH different than Delta 1779 LGA-MSY!
Then he gave me the controls, gave me a heading and altitude to shoot for, and I was flying! I took us out to the south practice area, which is over the beach at Robert Moses State Park on the south shore of Long Island. There we went through some basic maneuvers: straight-and-level flight, turns, climbs, descents, climbing turns, etc. He even showed me a stall and we went over recovery techniques.
…was basically how I felt. It was intense and thrilling. I was utterly overwhelmed emotionally, and definitely lost track of time because I was having too much fun. I was a lot better at basic control, holding an altitude and heading, etc. than I (or the CFI) thought I would be. I even flew most of the traffic pattern at the end, and he only took over controls for the actual short final and touchdown.
The first thing I learned was that there is a limit to how much you can learn in a day. We covered more info than a student normally would on their first lesson, and boy, did I hit the wall at the end. My brain was mush for the last 10 minutes. We were doing slow flight and stalls and I had a hard time processing everything that was happening. Also, it was much harder to spot other airplane traffic than I thought it would be. And those little buggers were everywhere! KFRG doesn’t have scheduled airline service, but it is crazy busy with general aviation traffic. There are multiple flight schools, including a university aviation department, along with private airplanes and a couple of charter operations flying Gulfstreams, Learjets, and Citations.We picked up radar traffic advisory service from New York Approach, and they were pointing out traffic (what seemed like) constantly. Also, I found it a bit harder to find landmarks than I expected because, well, the world doesn’t look like a map. Trees, houses, and roads all kind of look the same. Luckily, on Long Island you’ve got the Atlantic on the south end, the Sound on the north end, and NYC to the west, so it’s not too hard to get lost.
It was an intense day, but I’d rather be challenged every time I go up than have boring repetitive lessons, so I am OK with the mushy brain. My biggest challenge will be finding the words to explain to all of you how amazing it is to be up there.
First lesson: DONE.
Logbook: 1.2 hours
Mood: Indescribably ecstatic