Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Learning to Fly Pt. 1

Having learned to fly at a young age (4), I am always baffled when I meet someone who is afraid to get into an aluminum tube of imminent fiery death. People who have a phobia about flying are what we pilots sensitively call ‘chickens’.

One way for scaredy-cats to get over their fear of flying is to actually learn how to fly. “Get onto the horse that is about to violently buck you off!” we say. Here’s how to do that.

First, get young, coordinated, thin, fit and rich. Learning to fly costs quite a large amount of money so if you are not independently wealthy or have not recently struck oil on your property, your best bet would be to become a brain surgeon. Go ahead – I’ll wait.

Um de dum…

OK so now you’ve got lots of money. Good. Hand it all over to a Flying School which you’ll find at any airport, ‘airport’ being defined as ‘That place where you go to stand in line and have your toothpaste confiscated and x-rays taken of your privates on your way to Disneyland.’

What a flying school will do, after taking all of your money and buying cases of scotch, is take you flying in one of their training aircraft to see if they like you. There are a number of different small airplanes out there, with comical names like MessieSchlitz, Winnebago, Sopwith, Fakker, Caterpillar, Piston, Pipper, Spad and Clunk.

Today you’ll probably get into what is known as a Thunderbolt, or ‘Cessna’. The first thing you’ll notice about this or any airplane is the dizzying array of knobs, gauges, buttons, boeings, twittles, spigots and flings that are on the dashboard. Pay no attention to these since most of them will be marked with little signs saying “Damaged in last crash” or some such. Only airline pilots actually use them anyway so for now just focus on the fact that there is a goofy steering wheel and two brake pedals.

These pedals are awesome in that they are used to steer and they are both brakes! Can you imagine how cool it would be to drive a car that had these? You could drive with no hands and still steer – what an excellent way to terrify the children!

Anyway, with your instructor, get into a seat and let him or her grope you into your seat belts, of which there are about 19. Not that you’re going to need them when you crash or anything. Their purpose, like helmets on skydivers, is to humour insurance agents who will be watching your every move from here on. There may even be one lurking in the back seat, trying to visually check your cholesterol level. Pay no attention.

So the instructor will push a few things and pull the gas handle thingy and start the noisy motor up front, called the impeller as I recall, and off you’ll go, plowing into all the parked airplanes because the gas pedal stuck and didn’t you know Cessna is made by Toyota?

Actually, you’ll be wearing comically huge headphones at this point and the instructor will tell you how to plug your nose and blow up your ears to unplug your crustacean tubes so that as you climb your eardrums won’t burst, messing up their comically huge headphones. Something like that. It’s like scuba diving only going the other way.

So now you’re racing down the runway until you magically lift into the air and experience a wonderful sensation which we pilots call ‘barfing’, which is completely normal.

Once you recover, you’ll notice you are headed straight for the tall trees at the end of the runway but don’t panic! We’ll cover what to do about that in the next exciting episode of Crawford’s Crashes, wherein I’ll explain exactly how a propeller once flew off the airplane I was piloting, and, coincidentally, why pilots always carry a spare set of clean underwear with them when aviating.

Until then, this concludes Part One. Please rewind before returning to storage case.

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