7:50 PM

A First-Hand Chronicle
of Learning to Fly

If you have ever wondered what it is REALLY like to get in the left seat of a rented flight school airplane and blast off into the wild blue to earn your private ticket, boy have I got a great blog for you to read:

Greg Perry is just your average guy, a 42 year-old magazine publisher out of Huntington, West Virginia who likes cars, autocross, NASCAR, home improvement, and someone named JuliaK, so says his Blogger profile. Greg has wanted to fly for 35 years, which means he discovered flying machines at about seven-years-old. And like me, and so many other pilots, he has waited patiently for the stars to align in his life, and finally began the process of earning his pilot's license in March of 2008.
Now I read quite a few aviation blogs, but "42 and Flying" stands out in the crowd. Why? For the same reason Ernest K. Gann stands out...the writing. Perry's keen ability to string the right words together to form really interesting stories makes his blog flow effortlessly from cyberspace to your brain. As a description of the "fun, fear and frustration" of flying, it is worthy of praise from a guy like me who has been getting paid to write for my entire adult life.

Here is a sample of the way "42 and Flying" draws you in to the cockpit and never lets go. This description of a flight student's first landing is priceless:
"We enter the left-hand pattern at HTW, and Nelson [his CFI] again is relating to me all this information in his relaxed, easy-going way. "You're going to land this puppy," Nelson says over the headset. Totally out of the blue. I am stunned. "Oh, I'll help a little bit, but you'll do most of the work," he says, and takes his hands completely off the yoke to illustrate the point.

Great. We're at 1,500 feet and descending at 3-400 feet per minute now, the engine at idle, and there's two guys in the airplane: One of them has landed a plane before. One of them has not.

If you think this has the makings of a classic mathematical question on the SAT, you're right. If two men are in an airplane traveling 65 mph, one of them has landed before and the other has not landed before…what are the odds of the plane safely making it back to earth without a huge fireball as the finale?

Nelson talks me down, down, down. It is a little unsettling at first, but you MUST get used to the sensation of no power and descending at a controlled rate. That's all a landing *truly* is, a controlled descent (some say crash) to the ground. Base leg, and I turn the plane on final, pointed right at the numbers of Runway 26. Nelson reminds me not to push the nose down, it'll go there all on its own. The plane practically flies itself toward the runway numbers, just over the trees that are at the edge of the runway. The engine has been idling since the downwind leg. The number 26 gets larger in the windshield, and I'm doing my best to keep the plane straight. About 10 feet off the ground, the mystical Ground Effect takes place, and I pull back on the yoke. Nelson adds a little more back pressure using his yoke, and we settle right onto Runway 26 as pretty as you please. Other than that last-second application of back pressure, Nelson's hands were off the yoke.

I landed 40Golf pretty much by myself today. Just call me Maverick, honey."
If you have been there and done that, you will agree Perry's writing is spot on. So pour a cold glass of whatever gets you wound down, go visit "42 and Flying" tonight, and enjoy. Oh, and be absolutely sure to bookmark his blog, because I can guarantee this will be a wild ride that we will all want to take with him.

The best part is that Perry can carry us all along on future flight lessons without worrying about weight and balance or being over gross. Hope we don't make him nervous, with a couple of hundred blog readers looking over his shoulder.

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