“Mid Flight - Pop Quiz”
I was so happy learning to fly an airplane. It was something I had longed for since watching "SKY KING" every week as a boy (go google that, you millennials). Pilot training was a mixture of book learning (ground school) and actual flying (holy crap school). Every time we took off there was a lesson to be learned, but I never knew what that lesson would be...
It was a beautiful summer day, not a cloud in the sky. The Cessna 152 was a great little plane that was pretty easy to fly. I was in the pilot seat and my flight instructor sat to my right in the co-pilot seat. I was busy doing the things that I had been taught already. Scanning the instrument panel. Scanning for other aircraft. Checking the speed and direction. Trimming the plane for level flight. There's a LOT to do when you're first learning and trying to get it right.
My flight instructor Jim was yabbering on and on about something that I was busy ignoring. On top of all the things I was already checking - he was lecturing me about always watching for a place for an emergency landing, if we ever needed it. Yup. Yup. Yup. He droned on and on while I kept busy doing the important task of flying the plane.
I'll never forget his next words: ".... Now we're going to pretend I'm not here." As he said those words - he turned the engine to "idle". The little plane just turned into a glider.... And the altimeter started going counter clockwise - which is not a good thing.
I laughed my nervous laugh and said "Oh - so this is a test of finding a place for an emergency landing... OK. I get it." Jim just sat there.
"I'm going to pick a place to land." Still no response. Stoic.
I picked a corn field that wasn't very far away. It was to the left of the airplane - and I slowly started to make the turn - remembering to only let the wings tip so far off of level (one of the first rules I had learned). But instead of heading for the corn field - my slow and cautious turn was making our plane circle the cornfield instead of line up with it.
Jim finally had enough. "Is that the corn field you're trying to get to?" he barked. I nodded. "THEN LET'S GET THERE!" and Jim pushed the nose down, full left rudder, full left aileron. We're tipped 90 degrees. Shoulders are pointing to Earth and Sky. This was NOT how I was taught to make a perfect turn in that Cessna.
Now that the adrenaline was pumping, we were finally on a glide path with the corn field in front of us. And the earth was coming up to meet us pretty quickly. "Land the Plane!" was Jim's stern order. "But.. but..." "Land the Damn Plane!" and I prepared to hit the corn that was standing about 6 feet tall. I couldn't believe I was actually going to tear into this corn field.
When we were about 100 feet above the ground, Jim pushed the power on the engine to full once again. I pulled the plane up and climbed back to our usual cruising altitude to finish the flight.
I learned a few things from that day that are still with me. In no particular order they are:
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Till next time...