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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day Weekend

We worked and played hard this weekend. Friday evening started with us giving the lilac bushes a serious pruning, and dragging a HUGE amount of brush back behind our shed. This week we will have to rent a U-Haul to get it to the dump. Saturday morning started out with a nice breakfast, followed by a surprise trip we took when my Mom came over to watch the boys. I didn't know where we were going, but when I mentioned to Annika that we were coming up to the Airport exit and the home of her favorite restaurant "The Hanger," Sandy pulled off. She missed the turn for the restaurant, and drove on, past the main airport entrance. Then she asked me if I had ever wanted to go sky diving! I said that I knew she would never let me do that, though I've always wanted to try it. Then we pulled into Rochester Aviation and she told me that we would be going for an airplane ride, and that I would be the pilot! She had got me a flying lesson!

I was so excited! After checking in with the front desk, we walked out to the plane with our instructor and strapped in Annika's seat. We all got headphones so we could listen to the control tower. The instructor had me:

  • Prime the starter (push button primer like a lawnmower)
  • Start the engine
  • Taxi onto the runway
  • Take off
  • Fly around Rochester
  • Fly back to the airport
  • Land!
  • Taxi back to the hanger

Well, OK. He took care of the final ~ 20 seconds of landing, as I would have came in a little hard.

The whole thing was fascinating. We flew at about 2500 feet the whole time, and we were able to fly over our house. My mom was outside and she said she saw us fly overhead twice. Which we did. I was concentrating so hard on trying to keep us at the right elevation that I didn't take a real close look at the house, but Sandy said that she could see the new garden. Annika seemed to enjoy the ride, but she was a little scared. Initially, I was trying to steer the plane level, which was unnecessary. The instructor actually recommended that I fly with one hand and just let the plane keep itself level. "The plane wants to fly level" is what he said.

I came away from this experience with a lot of new knowledge, and some insights:

  1. Sandy gets me way better presents than I get her.
  2. She actually trusts me with our daughter's life.
  3. The act of flying a plane is not hard, but the intricacies of radioing the control tower, being alert for other planes, and being aware of all the guages seem complicated.
  4. Houses and lawns and cars and buildings look pristine from 2500 feet. It all looks so surrealistic and fascinating.
  5. Even the biggest house is dwarfed by its surroundings, so having a big house, in the great scheme of things, does not matter. From less than half a mile up, humans seem very insignificant.
  6. For being the third biggest city in Minnesota, there sure is a lot of green space and trees in this area. I don't think Minnesota will have to worry about over-crowding for a few lifetimes.
  7. Nosing a plane down causes a sharp increase in speed. Conversely, when taking off, pulling up too sharply causes an equal reduction in speed and lift. Take off slow and easy.
  8. Pilots trust you to take off, but they want to be in control at the downward portion of the flight.
  9. Sandy has great eyesight. We were told to be on the lookout for a Northwest flight that was incoming, and it took me forever to spot it. Sandy said she saw it about five minutes before I did. (Of course, she was not flying and could spend her time looking out the window. I was looking at guages.)
  10. Flight simulators for PCs, and video games which feature the ability to fly, are totally B.S. Even at 2500 feet and a little over 100 MPH, it would be nearly impossible to bomb something or shoot accurately. The world is just too big and we are too small. Those pilots who flew in WWI and WWII and were dog-fighting each other were amazing and talented people.
  11. Always pack the camera.
This week we will be focusing on getting ready for the boys first birthday party. We have to take the brush to the dump, get the lawn ready, prepare the food and the house, arrange for extra parking, and take care of a myriad of other details. When the party is done, I can concentrate on my other Father's day present -- Accelerated Piano Adventures, books 1 & 2.

Thanks for a great Father's Day weekend Sandy, Annika, and Owen!