Fly… High… Up In The Sky…
I remember my very first flight, although I don’t remember the exact details of it. It was a flight from Jakarta to the South Sumatran city of Palembang, back in the early or mid-1990s. I can’t recall which airline it was, nor can I remember the aircraft type.
In fact my knowledge about flying was so limited that I thought runways end with a jump ramp, just like the ones that motorcycle jumping daredevils use, where the aircraft will finally take off and travel in a straight line before it (hopefully) lands at the other airport.
Of course, now I know enough that airplanes don’t take off that way, and that it relies on a set of navigational systems and aids in order to reach their destinations safely.
In fact, my interest in flying only took off (pun fully intended) when I started playing Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 on my crappy Compaq Evo N800v. I remember sitting inside the virtual Cessna 172 Skyhawk, listening to instructions from the virtual instructor Rod Machado, as he guided me through the basics of flight controls, which I duly followed using my laptop keyboard–hardly realistic at all.
And I thought it was cool.
And cool it was, until I had the privilege of finally realising the experience on a Cessna 152 as part of the flight training with the company earlier this year.
No doubt that over the years, I’ve improved on my virtual flying skills so much that I no longer land a 747 on the taxiway instead of the runway, and that I’ve made the virtual experience as real as possible by buying a flight yoke and rudder system, but nothing beats cruising in a real airplane at 6,000 feet in the air over Sembawang airbase, looking out into the distance at Bukit Timah hill and trying to answer the instructor’s question of where the boundaries of Area B of the Light Aircraft Training Area is.
Or the thrill of taking off and landing the airplane on my own, with the instructor only taking over when he deems that it is unsafe for me to do so.
Or the adrenaline rush as the instructor conducts a “fan stop”, a simulated engine failure procedure just after take off, where the throttle of the aircraft is closed fully, and I had to quickly establish the aircraft on a glide attitude, choose a landing spot, simulate cutting off the fuel flow into the engines, adjust flaps, and simulate opening the door and cutting electrical supplies as the club house and the trees in the neighbouring golf course looms closer.
The best thing that I had experienced must have been the solo flight, where over the 10 minutes I was on my own in the aircraft, with no instructor next to me. I had to communicate with the air traffic controller, taxi the aircraft, take off, make a round in the airport’s circuit pattern, and then land and taxi back to the parking spot, all on my own.
It was 19 October 2009, and it was the second last time that I had touched an aircraft’s controls. My last flight was the following day, when I finally reached the quota for flights here in Singapore. My next flight will be in Australia next year.
It’s been 68 days since then, and I’ve started to miss flying already. I still “fly” from time to time on the flight simulator, but nothing beats the real thing. But with my time being taken up by the exam preparation, I suppose that too will have to take a back seat for now.
Leonardo da Vinci once said: “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”
He’s absolutely right.
Before I end this post, check out this video that I found on YouTube. I remember watching it as a kid, and the song kind of got stuck in my head until now.