I’m flying an airplane!

May 18, 2014

Paulina got me a rather strange gift for my birthday, a small trip in a small airplane. I had initially thought that I was only going out for a ride, so I brought a lot of camera gear to capture the moment — I haven’t flown in a small aircraft before, and seeing as we were going to fly rather low, I thought it’d make a great photo shoot moment.

I got to bring a friend with me, so I called up my brother, I can’t say he was thrilled about the idea of flying in a small aircraft, but he was indeed excited. My relationship with my brother hasn’t always been the best, but we’ve grown closer these last years and I saw this as a great opportunity to do something together.

The day before the flight I got a call, I was told that if I wanted to, I could fly the plane. As a person who loves almost everything about airplanes, I can tell you that I was almost jumping from the excitement.

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Inside cockpit of the Antonov AN2.

As we got to the airport, and went in to the hangar where all the small planes are located we got a chance to look at some other planes. One of them, an old Antonov AN-2 stood out. We got to climb inside it and look around. It sure was old, and the interior gave away that. Our pilot told us that this was a Russian registered plane, and only pilots with Russian flight certificates were allowed to fly it.

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The Cessna 172.

After looking around we got to our plane, a rather old Cessna 172 — from the little research that I’ve done, it seems to have been a Cessna 172M which was produced between ’73 to ’76.

We opened up the hangar doors and pushed out the plane. As we got in, my brother in the back seat, me in the co-pilot chair and the pilot in his chair, I started to get a bit nervous, this plane is really cramped inside, and I wore both a sweater and a jacket, which was way too much in this warm little plane.

The pilot taxied out on to the runway and took off. A few minutes in to the flight he gave over full control of the plane to me. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this was probably one of the most awesome feelings that I’ve ever had. I flew around Vasa and the neighbouring municipalities at 300 m above sea level.

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Me on the right, flying the plane. Photo courtesy Alexander Horn.

As we flew around we got a call on the radio from the Finnish Air Force, notifying us that there were three Hornet fighters in the air, flying low altitude and that we should try and steer clear of them. Sadly we didn’t get a chance to see them, but it was pretty cool anyway.

The thing that I noticed the most when steering the plane was the delay between moving the stick and the plane actually moving, there’s not a lot of delay, but some, and it was a bit hard compensating for crosswinds because of the delay — I had a hard time figuring out how much to compensate.

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Vasa’s inner harbor shoreline. Photo courtesy Alexander Horn.

Needless to say, I didn’t get to use any of my camera gear, I was too busy flying around. And I can’t say that I regret the decision — I’d rather fly than just be a passenger.

After about 20 or 30 minutes in the air I was told to return to our airport, so I started flying south, towards the airport. When we were somewhat close to the airport the pilot took back the controls. Both the pilot and me had headsets for talking, my brother in the back seat didn’t have any, so he couldn’t hear what we were talking about, and I guess he missed when I gave back the controls. Just after the switch the pilot told me he wanted to show me one last thing, he pulled the stick back, and that’s when I figured out that he was going for a loop. As we were almost upside down I remembered that my brother didn’t have headphones and that he probably wasn’t aware that I wasn’t flying the plane (which if I was him, I’d assume we were going to crash), so I turned around and he looked pretty shocked, holding onto anything within his reach. Just before the plane levelled out a lot of warning beeps were going off (probably for engine stall), which I assume didn’t help in this situation.

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Going in for landing. Photo courtesy Alexander Horn.

The landing went great and as we were on the ground the pilot told me that he’d flown with another guy last week. The other guy whilst not having any real flying experience had flown a lot of airplanes in different simulators. The pilot told me that he was surprised how good I was at flying whilst the simulator guy hadn’t really been able to fly at all. Confidence boost to say the least.

I’ll end this post with saying that this was one of the best experiences that I’ve been through, and if you ever get a chance to fly in a small airplane, you should go for it, without a doubt.

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