Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jay's flying experience

Jay here, Sarah's taking a break tonight and playing Ticket to Ride on her iPhone. So while she does that, I'm going to tell you a little bit about the coolest thing I've ever done.

While we've been here in New Zealand, we've done some crazy stuff. We climbed through caves, saw Bilbo's house and were spitting distance to boiling mud at a Maori village. I would have to say though, that the experience I was most looking forward to was flying a stunt plane. I've been interested in the mechanics of flying ever since I was little and I love to watch the planes take off and land at Gravelly Point back home, so when I saw the video of some friends flying a stunt plane, I just had to do it.
When we woke up this morning, Disaster! It was raining. Not just a little rain either, but pouring. Sarah had been emailing the guy back and forth and we decided it'd be better to reschedule for tomorrow. Fortunately, we were planning on doing local stuff in the area anyways so doing it tomorrow would not have been a big deal. Sarah would've been upset with me if we had to mess her itinerary up by more than a day, and trust me: we would've waited as long as it took for nicer weather. The funny thing is, the weather here is so nutty, that by the time we got to Motueka (the town we're staying at), the sun was up and it was almost 70 degrees.
Because of the bipolar swing in the weather, we decided to call them up, but where to get a phone? At the suggestion of our old roommate Mary, we have been stopping at the information center at every town we visit to learn what they suggest doing and to book stuff. The very nice Elise called up the flight school and informed us that the weather was indeed ideal and that they had an opening at 3 for us. Success! While we were there, we also booked a guided kayak tour, booked a spot at the holiday park, got great suggestions for lunch and bought some souvenirs (these places really are a tourists' dream-come-true).

We loaded into the van and drove down to the Mapua wharf, where we had some great Fish and Chips and watched the tide come in. After lunch, we drove back to our holiday park where Sarah took a nap and I chilled out in my hammock. This was crucial as I was mentally preparing myself for the maneuvers I was about to do.

Finally, the time was nigh! With much anticipation, I sped to the airport. At the hanger, we met Vincent and Allison, a very nice couple who own and operate the flight school. After signing my life away (yes I recognize there is a risk of death, yes I am doing this willfully, no my family will not sue if I die) and a quick kiss for Sarah, it was off to the plane!

I changed into a flight suit and before even thinking of the plane, Vincent sat me down and we talked through, step-by-step, each maneuver we would do and how specifically to move the plane. I've played flight simulators before and had already mentally prepared myself so this was obviously not necessary, but it made Vincent more confident in me, so that was good.
Finally! Time to take off!! Being a novice, all I had to do for take off/landing was sit back and relax, which was hard to do. I've only ever flown in commercial jets (as a passenger, duh) and trust me, this thing has a lot more get-up-and-go than those things. We were up like a shot and before I realized it, control... was in... my HANDS!!

This plane ride was so epic, and the controls were much more easier than I had imagined. The hardest part of flying was that you can't see straight out of the cock-pit. I kept dipping the nose so I could see the horizon, which naturally put us into a nose-dive, whoopsy.
Vincent was really good about talking me through maneuvers and correcting my mistakes. The joy-stick really only needs a minor flick of the wrist to get you turning, instead of the wrestling move I was trying to do on it.
While in the air, I did a loop, a single and double barrel roll, a Cuban figure 8 and a reverse Cuban. Vincent also took me up until the plane stalled and let us free fall. My flight was so amazing, but before I knew it, my time was over and I was sitting back for a skilled (and somewhat scary) landing into cross winds.

This has definitely been the most expensive experience that we've done, but I would say the cash was totally worth it. I can't wait until I get home so I can start researching for more places that do this in the states, I'm hooked! And if you fly a crop-duster for a job in the DC metro area, watch out, I may be coming to take it from you.