Monday, July 11, 2016

My Proudest Moment as a Pilot


It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon, and we had just finished our week-long kickoff meetings for the project that was ramping up at work.  I was caught up on other work items, so I checked with my other 3 team members to see if they needed help on anything.  None of them needed any help, so I requested the rest of the day off from my manager to do some flying.  Knowing this project was going to keep me extremely busy the next several months, she gladly approved.  

As I left, I opened ForeFlight on my phone to check the METAR at HNB, and called the AWOS to verify.  Winds were light, and the skies were clear.  I decided today would be the perfect day to take my father for his first flight.  He's 83 years old, retired US Army, but has never been on a plane of any kind.  He was deployed during the Korean War, but all his travels overseas were by ship.  I called DCFS to see if the Skyhawk was available to rent, which it was.  I reserved it for about an hour.

I arrived at the nursing home around 2 pm.  Dad was surprised to see me.  I asked him if he wanted to go flying today, and his eyes lit up & he eagerly said yes.  I spoke with the nurse to verify there weren't any medical concerns, signed him out, and we headed to the airport.  During the 25 minute drive, I started my pre-flight passenger briefing a little early to give dad time to process and to ask questions.  This proved to be a valuable decision, as he was very eager to understand some of the things that would happen, and it helped him understand better when I repeated some of the info in the plane.  I plan to do this with any passengers that end up riding with me to the field, especially those that have never been in a small plane before.

One thing I continually stressed was that if at any time after I start the engine that he gets nervous, scared, or changes his mind, to absolutely let me know immediately.  Likewise if we were airborne and he got queasy or scared, I'd bring us back down safely & we'd end the flight.

We arrived at the airport, and the DCFS guys had 34Q already pulled out & fueled.  I helped dad get in first, then proceeded with my preflight.  I finished my checklist flow on the exterior and climbed in to help dad get buckled in and helped him get his headset comfortable.  I put mine on as well, and decided that before getting busy with the rest of the checklist that this was a perfect photo op.

The smile on our faces says it all.  He was so excited, and I was so proud to get to take him up.  I completed the checklist, shouted "Clear prop," turned the key, and 34Q roared to life.  Taxi, runup, and takeoff were smooth as ever, and we were departing midfield to the north in no time.  I didn't have a long flight planned, just enough to give dad a view of Jasper from about 2,500 feet, and anywhere else he wanted to go.  He didn't get nervous once, and was just amazed at how small everything looked even from that height.

It was a beautiful day for flying.  Clear blue skies and a few white puffy clouds were visible for miles.  It was a little bumpy at times, but he didn't mind at all.  I worried it might make him nervous, since he ironically shares the same fear of heights as me, but he was calm and relaxed the entire flight.

I knew that even though he wasn't nervous, it was probably an emotional moment for him.  Not wanting to wear him out too much, I asked him if he wanted to fly some more, or head back.  He decided it was probably time to head back, so I quickly checked the skies to the left then began a left turn back to the south.

AWOS was saying the wind was favoring niner, but I knew from takeoff that the wind was pretty much straight across, so I decided to overfly midfield and get a good look at the midfield sock as well as the one on the east end.  Wind was actually favoring two-seven, so I tear-dropped in from the south onto the 45 for left-downwind accordingly, making my radio calls.  Descent and landing were as smooth as takeoff, and I taxied us back to the hangar & shut down.

I completed the shutdown & parking checklist, then helped dad out of the plane.  He was still smiling from ear-to ear.  I filled out the tach sheet, thanked the DCFS guys for their help, then we headed inside & I dropped off the sheet at the desk before helping dad to the car.

All the way back I kept complimenting him on how calm he was.  He said he was just in awe, and was taking it all in the whole time, and told me how proud he was of me for getting my license.  We made it back to the nursing home just in time for dinner.  We sat and talked for a while, then I left and headed back south to spend time with my daughter.

This was by far one of the proudest moments of my life.  Only the day I became a father myself surpasses it.  I am very aware of how blessed I am to have had the opportunity to become a private pilot, and to exercise the privileges that accompany the title.  To be able to share this gift with my father will absolutely be one of the highlights of my entire life, and made all the time and effort to get here absolutely worth it.

Two Victor Uniform, clear of Two-Seven.

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