The little white plane

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 Permalink

I was talking to my mother recently about a couple of friends I made when I lived in Canberra. Sadly we lost contact when we all went separate ways – bizarrely we all received great opportunities at the same time. Two of us went on overseas postings and the third went to work as an adviser for a politician. Although the internet and email communication existed, we somehow drifted apart and lost contact.

One of the friends had a plane. Although they had minimal free time, she and her partner were flying enthusiasts and belonged to the local Aeroclub. It was bizarre to me as, when I lived in Mozambique I’d very vaguely recalled visiting an Aeroclub and it’d seemed such an expat / privileged thing to be involved in. So I was pleasantly surprised to see the Canberra Aeroclub hosted very down to earth characters.

One fine day my friend – who I will call Mary (just cos that’s not her name) offered to take me flying – telling me how AMAZING Canberra and surrounds looked from the sky. Plus she wanted company as she logged some more hours in her little plane.

I was flying about quite a bit then – though usually in larger planes of course. Flying didn’t bother me though take-off and landing were my least favourite parts of any journey – for obvious reasons. So I happily accepted Mary’s offer and we arrived at the airport ready for our jaunt. My recall is now a bit vague but I think her plane was a four-seater (two front and two back) and after an inordinate amount of time getting organised we finally climbed on board.

Which is when I started to get worried.

Left vs Right
My first concern was that my friend had the letters L and R written on post-it notes and stuck inside the plane’s windscreen. Now, I’ve never really understood how someone can’t remember their left from their right, but I’ve seen people writing the L and R on their hands, or shaping their left hand into an L – which is fine. But… you don’t really want to be flying with a pilot who can’t easily remember left from right.

*Gulp*

We eventually set off and the take off was quite smooth. Next thing we were climbing towards the clouds and the view was as lovely as promised. However…

Radar? What radar?
My friend checked in with the tower and there was some discussion about flight paths (or similar). The crackling voice from the tower talked about other planes in the air and their whereabouts.

“Can you turn around and see if there’s anything on your side?” my friend asked.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

I’d assumed all planes have radars to ensure you stay gazillions of miles away from each other. But nope, apparently not. Pushing all thoughts of human error aside, I helped her out by turning in my seat to see any oncoming planes. It was like being on a bloody busy freeway and we’re dodging traffic and coming vehicles. Except we’re miles in the air.

No sooner had I come to terms with the need to look out for fellow flyers and my nerves calmed sufficiently it was time to land. Thank God.

But no… it gets better.

Up, down, up, down
As we were preparing to land my friend tells me that she really needs to practise her take-offs and landings.

“Of course,” I said. “No worries,” I said, while mentally screaming and wondering if I could open the door and leap out of the plane without injuring myself significantly.

And that’s what we did. About half a dozen times. We landed and, before slowing completely, took off again. We did a quick loop and landed and took off again. My friend was unhappy about the landings and wanted to keep practising.

Eventually she decided that the first landing had probably been the best (and I had reassured her that all of her landings were smooth – though it wasn’t entirely true) and we were done. Thank fuck!

That evening when I was safely ensconced on my sofa in my apartment I regaled my father with the day’s events. Even from 1500km away I could tell he was somewhat nervous about the idea I’d been up in a small plane.*

newbeeD2

What sort of plane was it, he asked?

“Ummm…. it was white with a cartoon figure on the tail,” I explained to him – obviously an aeronautical expert after my morning of flying.

I suspected an eye-roll at his end as he clarified nervously: “Was it an ultralight plane?”

Eventually we cleared up that I had not been traversing the Canberra skies in a tiny glider; rather something hardier. Which was white with a cartoon figure on the tail.

Have you ever flown with a learner-flyer?
Do you also hate take-offs and landings?

* We were used to small planes as – when I was younger – we often flew from Maryborough / Hervey Bay to Fraser Island on 4-6 seater planes… the type where you skim fairly low and can basically still open a window as air pressure isn’t an issue.

PS. I should note that my friend was actually a fine pilot. It was just a bit weird being privy to the inner workings – like going into the kitchen at your favourite restaurant and being slightly concerned by what you see!

I’m linking up with Jess and her IBOT team today!

24 Comments
  • Jo Tracey
    October 29, 2013

    I love flying, but from the relatively comfy seats! That experience would have freaked me out, I reckon!

    • Debbish
      October 29, 2013

      I was used to little planes so thought I’d be okay and guess when I go on them to Fraser Island there’s not a lot of air traffic. There were a lot of day trippers in the air above Canberra that day!

  • Char
    October 29, 2013

    I sat here reading this and shaking my head in disbelief. You were so brave to do that. (This is coming from a person who’s not altogether comfortable flying with commercial airlines in pretty big planes). I would have been a total mess.

    • Debbish
      October 29, 2013

      I hadn’t entirely realised what I was getting into unfortunately and when I did… it was too late. (Unless I’d leapt out of the plane during one of the landings as contemplated!)

  • Jess
    October 29, 2013

    Eek!! I would have been nervous, especially with the zillion take offs and landings.

    • Debbish
      October 29, 2013

      Yes, in large planes I struggle with my ears popping (I’m prone to ear infections and have narrow canals or something). This wasn’t quite like that, but it’s always quite bumpy in small planes!

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    October 29, 2013

    Freaky shit – I would not be so keen – I’d prefer to keep jumping out of planes (skydiving) than take off and land so many times, when this is when most things go wrong! Thanks for the laugh you brave thing you! 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 29, 2013

      Hee hee. I don’t think I’d like to skydive. I’ve thought about it, but I’d be the person whose parachute didn’t open and whose back-up chord snapped – or something!

  • Bec @ The Plumbette
    October 29, 2013

    This post had me laughing so much. I don’t like flying in a little plane. Big Planes are good, little planes not so. I would have been pissing my pants if I was on that flight with you. Actually, I wouldn’t have gone on it in the first place.

    • Debbish
      October 29, 2013

      Hi Bec and yes… it wasn’t quite what I was expecting!

      Deb

  • EssentiallyJess
    October 30, 2013

    Oh that is a hilarious story! I think I would have bailed at the post it notes. That’s just plane terrifying (pun totally intended ;))

  • Cora Conway
    November 11, 2013

    This post had me laughing so much. I don’t like flying in a little plane. Big Planes are good, little planes not so. I would have been pissing my pants if I was on that flight with you. Actually, I wouldn’t have gone on it in the first place.

    • Debbish
      November 11, 2013

      Hi Cora and thanks for your comment. I was actually okay until we got into the plane. I’d been on really small plans in my regional hometown and to Fraser Island, but that’s where there’s no other air traffic. I hadn’t expected the lack of technology in a capital city airport!

  • Vanessa
    October 13, 2014

    I am NOT a small plane person. I had a few trips last year in the Qantas prop planes and that was small enough for me. We moved countries a lot as a kid so in my mind, a plane is a 747. In fact I had only been on jumbos so much that when I left home, I got on a flight from Adelaide to Brisbane and freaked out momentarily – thinking “OMG THIS PLANE ONLY HAS ONE AISLE HOW CAN IT FLY?!”.

    • Debbish
      October 13, 2014

      Oh, I’ve been on lots of other small planes but I think a 5 seater had been the smallest prior to that one! I used to fly between East Timor and Darwin a lot and we went via a Metro something…. one seat either side of the aisle. Flights were expensive and there was a packet of chips on our seat and we could get a beer out of the esky as we climbed on board!

  • Ness
    October 13, 2014

    I have never been on a small plane like that. I think I would shit my pants. Generally, I’m okay with flying on commercial flights but that would freak me out. The post-it notes would have been enough to scare me!

  • Mark Downey - FULLHALFGLASS.COM
    October 13, 2014

    The only small plane I’ve ever been on was a “joy” flight at the Grand Canyon. One word … TURBULENCE!!!!!

    You are one brave women

    • Debbish
      October 13, 2014

      I wish i could agree but I don’t think I knew what I was getting into!

  • Have A Laugh On Me
    October 13, 2014

    I remember reading this last year and was in disbelief, I would have demanded to land but your hands were tied! BRAVE WOMAN , thanks for linking lovely Em x

  • hugzillablog
    October 14, 2014

    OMG OMG you are so much braver than me. I’d be all, “thanks but no thanks, catch up with me in the beer garden later”.

    • Debbish
      October 14, 2014

      I’d probably do that next time. I suspect I was in shock at the time!

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