“Right aileron, more left rudder, more….centerline..jo, what’s with the airspeed…look ahead, end of the runway…get it right, get it right…” my brain is working hard in the little Cessna 172M.
Given the fact I have more than one hundred landings under my belt, I could afford to relax a bit.
“Why are you breathing so heavily?” Marc, my instructor asks.
We are on the short final for runway 14 at KLWM. There is a slight crosswind from the right and my answer is instantaneous and heart-felt:
“Because flying scares the sh** out of me!”
Touchdown and subsequent takeoff are fine, but Marc wouldn’t know, he’s gasping for air and clapping his hands with delight. On the crosswind, he wipes away tears of laughter. “Ok, where are we?!”
I find this only partially funny. The time is high for my first solo. Nobody would guess what a high-anxiety activity flying is for me. At the same time, I’m completely intoxicated by the new world of aviation, loving every part of it right down to the smell of avgas.
So here I am, a slow, but determined, timid yet enthusiastic learner blessed with a wonderfully patient and supportive instructor. As I taxi toward the tower to drop him off, I positively fight the rising panic. This is indeed the scariest thing I have ever done. At the same time though, I know I’m ready and welcome the cool determination that comes with this realization.
“Have fun”, Marc hops out of the plane. I give him a thumbs-up and grin bravely. When the tower clears me for takeoff, I take a deep breath and gingerly roll out onto the runway. My hands are so sweaty that I have trouble keeping the yoke steady. But not to go is simply not an option and I add full throttle. As I rotate, I notice that the plane is climbing more easily, with less weight. Flying solo is amazing and perfectly normal at the same time. My voice is steady as I announce myself on the downwind. The landing is not my best, but controlled.
As I taxi back to the hangar, Marc walks towards me, beaming, waving his arms and taking pictures. It is only then I realize that all I had done was to fly the plane. He had to watch from the ground and trust his decision making. It cannot have been easy, after my statement on how I feel about flying. But on that cloudy summer day, I safely soloed an airplane. And along with the little old Cessna, my heart and soul soared