That’s me. In a plane. All by myself. – Photo: Chuyi Chuang
This is a continuation of my multi-part series on learning to fly.Â You can read the whole Fly With Francis series here.
I did it! I flew an airplane totally by myself over the Labor Day weekend. It was, in absolutely equal parts, terrifying and exhilarating.
Doing this was the culmination of a lifelong dream. Unlike a lot of airplane nerds, I don’t have any close family with ties to aviation. Instead, all of this started for me as a boy – my grandmother would take my brother and me to our little local general aviation (GA) airport in western Massachusetts, where we’d lie on the hood of her â€™69 Beetle and watch skydivers while eating ice cream. My interest in planes waxed and waned over the years, but never really went away. There was a time when *gasp* I was afraid of flying – my first-ever flight experience was a very turbulent series of flights down the Atlantic Coast in the height of summer that put me off flying for a long time.
Fast forward to about a decade ago, when my wife got us a helicopter tour of Seattle for my birthday. The desire to fly returned with a vengeance. And the fear had long faded.
That’s me, working through preflight checklists on the Galvin ramp – Photo: Chuyi Chuang
Anyway, at a flight school like Galvin, periodic stage checks ensure students are properly prepared to advance to the next segment of training by having them work with different instructors, who both confirm the students’ competency and verify that the primary instructor has done their work properly. Some find the process cumbersome; for me the rigor is comforting.
I film in the backseat as we taxi out for the runway onÂ a Cessna 172 Skyhawk – Photo: Steven Paduchak
Though I have been studying aviation management in school for the past three years, I havenâ€™t had a chance to go up for a flight in a general aviation (GA) aircraft yet. I know, that sounds crazy. Iâ€™ve traveled commercially all my life. However, all of that changed on an April weekend in Florida, when I took my first GA flight.
At my university, I enrolled in an “Introduction to Film” class to meet an elective requirement. Of course, given the course, we were assigned a project to makeâ€¦.well, you guessed it, a short film. The production was to be about 10-15 minutes long. Coincidentally, the majority of people in my assigned group consisted of aviation majors. Being the AvGeeks that we naturally are, we attempted what everyoneÂ expected us to do; make a film related to aviation.
Our film was planned out as follows: a young boy grows up aspiring to become an airline pilot, much like his father. Unfortunately, his father is killed in a plane crash, thus leaving him very bitter, sad, and alone. As the film goes on, skipping five years in between, the young boy struggles to move on in life, but eventually, a recording from the “Black Box” reveals the boyâ€™s father wishing him a happy and successful life in the skies.
Hearing his father speak for the last time is both relieving and motivating for the young boy, whom at that point, is a young man flying for a regional airline. My group and I knew putting this powerful story into a 10-15 minute film would be a challenge, but we decided to give it a shot!