Extra Training

Dear Ms. Earhart,

New day, new instructor, new approach. I’ve decided to trade in my jumpsuit, pantyhose and kitten heels for a teal and purple Hang Ten sweat suit and my Chuck Taylor high top sneakers. (This way I could wear socks and avoid another embarrassing run in with the Flight Supervisor.) In high school, my Chucks were always my good luck charms for gym meets so I figured, why not? (I’m not sure if they’ll help my landings, but I think they can’t hurt.) Honestly, I was a little nervous about flying with a new instructor. I didn’t think the experience could be any worse than getting screamed at in the cockpit, but with my limited experience, I could have been wrong. Anyway, now that I have some hours in the seat, I was allowed to check in at dispatch by myself. (Pretty cool, right?) But apparently, I wasn’t cleared to leave the office without a foot inspection from the Flight Sup. He stopped me again and called me into his office and had me put a foot on his desk. Although it was kind of humiliating, it was worth it just to see the look on his face when my cream-colored, canvas high tops hit his desk top. (Can you say mouth open wide enough to catch horseflies?) So, I strode, proud as a peacock, straight out of dispatch and went out on the ramp to get the plane ready and then waited for my new instructor. When he finally walked up to the airplane he was smiling ear to ear. (He had very nice teeth.) I had a feeling that everything was about to change. And it did. In fact, I had the best flight of my life. (At least, so far.) Who knew learning to fly could also be fun? He didn’t raise his voice. Better yet, he took time after each landing to hold on the ground and talk through what I did well and then talked about a few ways I could improve. He demonstrated a stabilized approach to the runway, and then let me try the next time around the traffic pattern. He did a landing with me shadowing him on the flight controls, and low and behold, when we came around the pattern the next time, my final approach was so steady and my power adjustments so smooth, that the moment I raised the nose to flare, the wheels greased on to the pavement! How incredible! No bounces or wheelies or hopping from wheel to wheel. I made a perfect touch down all by myself! We went around the pattern again to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. My instructor sat next to me with his lips zipped, eyes focused forward and his ready-to-jump-in fast hands folded comfortably in his lap. Each landing was a mirror image of the one before. Around and around the traffic pattern we went until I had made a dozen greaser landings. During the debrief back at home base, my rent-a-IP said he thought that next flight I’d be ready to solo. Solo? Me? At that moment I felt like if I ran far enough, I would lift off and into the air and soar like a bird; with the sun warming my face and the wind swishing through my hair. I am the luckiest girl in the world.

I’m guessing I’m preaching to the flight crew, right Ms. Earhart? I’m sure you already know all this stuff, but I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you letting me write to you. Has anyone ever told you that you’re the best listener in the world?


A student pilot floating on air

p.s. Did you know it’s tradition to cut the tail of a pilot’s shirt after their first solo?

(Maybe they didn’t do that back in the olden days.)