Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Believe it or not... I'm walking on air

Sunday the 26th of March was Cowra Aero Club's open day. It featured joy flights as well as short intros to the world of ultralight flying and information on certification. They had a sausage sizzle around lunchtime and there was also a raffle on. I missed a lot of that as friends of mine came up to visit and helped me to start packing (eek!). We visited the Mulyan winery as well as Cowra Smokehouse (post to come later) which smokes many of their own farmed trout as well as other delicacies.

I was extremely curious about learning to fly, especially since one of my patients is just about to become an instructor. He invited me to visit that day and said he would take me up in his plane. Thus, I decided to brave the unknown and went along by myself (since Richard was at an engagement party in Qld).

When I first got there, there were quite a few families still there (it had started at 8 am) I could see that they had a steady flow of traffic as a few more arrived in the time I was there. Kids were pretty excited about seeing the planes take off and land. I met another patient of mine Les who coincidentally is the father-in-law of Sue of the noodlebowl fame. He services planes and explained a lot to me and quickly hooked me up to go on a flight. It cost a mere $20, understandably for petrol and running costs.

I watched planes take off and land and families go up in some of the slightly bigger ones ( four to eight seaters) one even did barrel rolls in the sky!! This is an example of an ultralight. It seats just two people but is exremely fuel economical and can travel four hours on a full tank at about 200 knot's( I think that's what he said). This will take us approximately from here to the middle of Queensland.

A "Jaberoo" type ultralight plane.

Soon it was my turn as Mick arrived to whisked me away on his white plane. This is a slightly different type of plane to the Jaberoo as you can see the cockpit is not under the wings. It can get hotter on longer flights but this also enables the plane more manouverability. "This particular plane is also built for some aerobatics." Mick tells me, but only after I have walked up on the wings already and buckled in the seatbelt. "Its time for revenge!!!" He says and gives me the evil grin. I think to myself ... what am I in for??

The "Brumby" - my flying coffin

As the plane starts to taxi, he starts explaining things such as the foot pedals are not clutches and brakes but to steer the plane on the runway. I am only half taking it in as I start to think about who I haven't said goodbye to yet. However, the takeoff was unbelievably smooth and very soon we were up in the air!! He explains to me some of the various instruments on the dashboard and what they were.

Steady now....

As soon as we reached a cruising altitude of 5000 feet, he got me to take the controls!! The feeling was indescribable... like anything was possible. The plane, being partly aerobatic was very responsive so I had to hold on to the err joystick (never quite asked what the right word for it was) pretty firmly. Mick got me to try turns as well and those were a bit nerve racking as you felt like you were tipping over. I flew for a few more minutes as Mick said to turn here or there and try and keep focused and level with the horizon. (It was like driving instruction, but in 3-D) He then took the controls back and asked me if I liked roller coaster rides. Of course! He then took us down in a negative G with the tummy left behind kind of feeling. That was great. Positive 1G was good, but 2G was getting a bit stressful. He then right into some 360 degree turns which had a spiraling effect. That, I was not as good with! However, I didn't feel sick ... just a little bit off. All too soon, it was time to land and it was an extremely smooth landing too.

I am pretty fortunate living in the country and getting to experience so many new things. In the cities, hangar fees are a lot higher so to experience something like this today would have been hard to do, lots more crowded and probably cost a lot more too. The flyer I got at the place said that flying lessons cost around $120 per hour and it takes a minimum of 20 hours (although the majority of people need more than that) After certification, we are able to rent the planes for $80 and hour or for the more serious hobbyist, buying one starting at about $70 grand (not including insurance and maintenance). Wow... it is so much more accessible here than I ever thought possible. I am definitely going to look more into this and maybe start with one or two lessons and see how I go. But once you've had that feeling ... well, I can't wait to go up in the air again!!

Cowra from the air!!


At 1:00 AM, Blogger RON said...

Hello Rachel. Am I glad I stopped by. Just checked in to see if you might have a new entry posted. I see that you did. Thanks for the ride.

At 8:19 AM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Rachel - Wow, what a neat adventure.....I once willingly jumped out of a Cessna(with a chute).....and really didn't enjoy it much.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Katie said...

Wow Rachel! In my 20 odd years in Cowra, the only planes I went in were the ones to Sydney, and that only happened once! I need to meet some more ppl I think.... maybe I should become a dentist rather than a biologist? :)

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Flatfeet said...

So fun and exciting!Did you do the 360 degrees twist in the air?? LOL. Probably next time hey ;p

At 11:46 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Hi Ron! Hmm too bad hawaii is just that little bit too far from Sydney to fly a ultralight from :)

Kirk! More info on that please!

Katie, hehe I think you'd make a pretty good dentist. You are a real people person!

Hey flatfeet! no we didn't barrel roll! ehe if i ever get a license I'll take you up int he air :D


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