One wonderful thing about airplanes is that each has a lesson to teach. All a new or old pilot has to do to learn the lessons of an airplane is keep his or her eyes and ears open. The airplane will do the rest.
I was home on Christmas leave one year and went to the airport where I first worked as a flight instructor. When I walked into the fixed base operator’s (FBO) office, I ran into a former student. He was dressed professionally and said he was selling airplanes. Good for him, I thought.
“What are you selling?” I asked.
“The Phantom II ultra-light,” he quickly answered.
“Oh, OK,” I responded. “Not really an airplane.”
“Actually, it is an airplane. It is more airplane than ultra-light. They designed it to take more positive and negative g than most airplanes. You want to try it out? Got one all set up for demo flights,” he said.
Visions of weight shift or warping wings came to mind and I said, “Naw, I don’t do ultra-lights.”
“You’ll like this one,” my student replied. “If you pass this opportunity up, you will always regret it.” Then he moved into the hard sell. He showed me the construction drawings and details, explained how three axis controls operated like any other airplane, and he went over the weight numbers. He talked about the wing loading as well as power loading. My student said the airplane performed well in winds up to 20 knots. The more he talked, the more interested I became; turns out, he was quite a salesman. Almost two hours later, he convinced me into fly his demo model. (The video below sort of verifies my student’s claims of g capability, but I don’t believe I would ever go out and try such with an ultra-light.)
I told him I could not buy one, and he said, “That’s all right. Take it around the patch a time or two. Go have fun with it.”
So I did.
And I had fun, also.
Really…, a lot of fun.
I flew almost a couple of thousand hours off this little country grass airport. Every hour of dual instruction and every minute of charter flying was wonderful. I most enjoyed every second of personal pleasure flying. It was all fun.
But not nearly as fun as the fun as I had with that “ultra-light.”
When I lifted, I saw a couple of guys hunting dove near the end of the runway. They stopped and waved. I had seen them before from the cockpits of Cessnas and Pipers, but they never paid any attention to those airplanes.
I flew over a school bus disgorging students. All the kids became excited and pointed to the little airplane and me and started shouting and jumping up and down. They never did that when other “regular” airplanes flew over.
I took the littlest airplane around the patch twice. The takeoffs were shockingly short and the landings shorter. The climb rate was phenomenal. In the air, she was a delight to fly. Feeling the wind on my face and tugging at my clothes reminded me of what flying was all about.
Yes, like all the other airplanes I had flown to date, the little ultra-light taught me a lesson. In her own way she taught me not to be prejudicial. Reminded me of some cliché about judging books and covers…
She also reinforced the idea flying is fun, but that flying which allowed one to feel the wind against their face is especially delightful.
© 2010 J. Clark