It all started in May 2009 after getting off a flight from Melbourne, I decided then and there that I wanted to be a Pilot. I had always been into cars and planes, so it wasn’t a total shock. The next three years were endless hours spent in front of the PC researching and “Googling” what steps I needed to take. This all leads up to a day that has defined the rest of my life. Thursday September 13th, 2012. The day I took my first unofficial flying lesson. What I mean by unofficial is that I took off, landed and steered the aircraft, but my instructor had control of the aircraft with pedals.
I booked in this flight months and months beforehand, and expected to feel scared and panicky, anxious and sick. All I felt was overwhelming excitement as I counted down the weeks, days, hours and minutes till I could fly!! On the momentous day, as I drove along Roe Highway, it wasn’t till I saw the Karel turn off to Jandakot Airport that the reality of what I’m about to do sunk into my goldfish brain. As I got out of my car at the RACWA (Royal Aero Club of Western Australia), I wondered if I would be returning to my car at all.
Filling out all my paperwork at the desk, my hand was shaking so bad that on my certificate at the end, they spelled my name wrong. Moving around to the other side of the desk to complete the payment side, the PC was going slow so, Anastasia said it will be a few minutes. Long enough for me to have a complete mini-mental breakdown as my mind took a sprint down dooms lane-way. The room started to spin and I started to feel like I was standing in front of a commercial oven, which was good seem I was feeling a little chili only moments earlier. Panic soon followed and then I was drowning in a pool of anxiety. What was I doing? I’ve suffered from claustrophobia since a child and now I was going to flying in a tiny aircraft? Why did I ever think I could become a Pilot? Am I an idiot? What made me think I could even do this???? WHAT WAS I THINKING??????
I walked over to the other side of the room which had huge windows looking out to the runway. I leaned against the freezing cold glass and silently watched other aircraft take off and land amongst a background of parked Cessnas. I knew in that moment that this is where I belonged. I have never felt like I belonged anywhere. But I belonged here, right now. All my anxiety, panic and doomed thoughts of never seeing my beloved car again vanished. As my credit card was swiped, I excused myself to go throw up my granny smith, (the only thing I could manage to eat that morning), and made my way out to the runway with my instructor Andrew. Walking amongst the Cessnas, Andrew suggested we fly over to Rottnest Island and back. I stopped short, terrified of the thought of flying over water, I exclaimed, “Over water?????? Are you insane?” So instead we agreed to fly north up the coast to view all the beaches and back down.
Opening the door of the Cessna, I peered in at the microscopic space that was supposed to fit……. two people? The space was so small that I basically had to lean way over his side to slam my door shut and his body was right against mine. Which was good because I was freezing!!
Pre-start checklist, listen to the weather, contact the tower and we were on the way to the runway line up where I got instructions on how to take off. Taking off was the experience of a lifetime. Feeling the aircraft lift off the runway was exhilarating. As we flew over Jandakot and headed towards the sea, I wanted to kick myself for only paying for 45 minutes.
The view was incredible and the experience of steering the aircraft was out of this world. We flew north up the coast over some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia and back down the coast over the water not far from shore. We flew 500 meters above the water but it was so windy, I was having trouble controlling the aircraft so we flew back up to 1,700 feet and back to Jandakot. Andrew had to take over flying for a short time around Jandakot as it’s one of Australia’s largest and busiest general aviation airports. Landing is a bit more difficult than taking off. I was swaying side to side like I was on a swing but landed quite gently for my first time. When I got out of the plane, my mind was going a million miles an hour making lists of what I needed to do to become a Pilot.
Looking back, Andrew and the staff at RACWA must have thought I was the biggest fruit-loop they had ever met. Haha! Sorry guys! Well, Albert Einstein was terrible at mathematics in school but went on to become a great physicist, and Lucille Ball was kicked out of drama school because her teachers said she was too shy and lacked star quality, yet she became a great actress. So just maybe there is hope for me…