You’re more likely to be injured in a car or at work than on an airplane, so why worry about taking a short trip in a single-engine Cessna 174, right?
They say, statistically, it’s safer than driving. But, as with many people, I had never even thought of flying in the small “puddle jumper” type of plane I was about to enter. As worried as I may have been before this little jaunt I was about to take, I actually became a little relieved when I heard about all the preparation that goes into each flight.
Checking flight Web sites for local weather conditions and calling the flight service station for weather specific to your route is just the beginning. My pilot, Jared Carey, an 18-year-old college freshman who started flying at age 14, checked the weight and balance of the plane the night before so we wouldn’t stall and take a nosedive back to earth. He also checked to make sure that every little instrument was working properly.
He checked the flaps to make sure they worked properly and took samples of gas from different areas of the gas tank to make sure there wasn’t any water or rust from corrosion in the tank.
I was prepped on what to do if we had to make an emergency landing, and what to do if Jared became unconscious and unable to fly. In a case like that, I was shown how to communicate with the tower so they could give me a “crash” course in landing.
After all this preparation, it was finally time to start the plane. Jared shouted, “Clear prop.” The computer screens blinked on. This is when it hit me: we were actually about to do this. We started to taxi toward the runway.
After getting clearance from the tower, we pulled out to the middle of the runway and hit the gas. Once we hit 55 miles per hour, Jared pulled up on the yoke and that’s where we went. As we rose to about 2,000 feet, we banked left to head to French Valley, near Lake Elsinore.
We weren’t going very far on our trip. We started out at Chino Airport and would travel just 25 minutes to French Valley. Just because we weren’t going very far doesn’t mean the trip would be uneventful. The wind was blowing pretty well that day, and when you are in a small plane, you really feel it. With each gust of wind we were pushed to the left, right, up and down.
As we approached the airport, we descended at an angle because of the wind, but straightened out as our wheels hit the ground. Even though Jared acknowledged that it was a pretty tough landing, I didn’t really care because we were safely on the ground, and that was all that mattered to me.
After getting some lunch, we returned to the plane to head back home. The flight took just as long as our trip there, but since I had a little more confidence in the whole idea of flying, it actually seemed a lot quicker. In no time at all, we were landing back at home. After another tricky landing, we slowed down and taxied off to park and tie down the plane.
As we left the plane, I started thinking about how I had told my family and friends I wanted to go skydiving. Well, even though I enjoyed the experience I just had, I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be jumping out of a plane anytime soon.