Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The first airplane I ever flew was a Cessna 152, C-GZCT. I was 16 years old and taking my Private License through Mitchinson Flying Service in Saskatoon. My dad paid $30 for an intro flight for me, and I went up with an instructor for about twenty minutes. The instructor told me we would do a quick tour of the city before returning for an uneventful landing. I told him that a fam flight was a formality, that I intended to become a commercial pilot, and that we should skip ahead to something interesting.

He arched his eyebrow.

"Oh realllllly?"

I did my first spin in Zulu Charlie Tango; the instructor took great pains to describe the whole process before we entered the spin, then asked me if I was comfortable continuing. I was like "Hell yeah, I am a total badass and I laugh in the face of danger and stuff".

I still remember gripping his shoulder and saying "Ohhh shitttttt!" as we entered the first revolution. It was one of the few times I haven't been able to keep the little man in my head under control while sober and the entire sequence is burned into my brain.

It went like this:

The stable platform somehow became an angry bronco, bucking and twisting in an effort to eject us from the plane or embed us in the ground beneath.

I remember looking at the Saskatchewan farmers fields rushing toward us while we spun down, and thinking what we were doing was impossible, that the wings would be coming off any second even while the instructor assured me that the G-load was very minor on the airplane, and we would live again to spin another day, and to kindly stop applying the claw to his shoulder or he'd have to bust me in the nose.

When he broke the stall and applied opposite rudder, the trusty plane immediately responded, transforming back into the docile beast I assumed all airplanes were. I detached my claw from his shoulder, and looked around, wild-eyed.

I have heard anecdotal evidence about abusing hard drugs, and from those stories, it appears I took a big hit off the aviation crack pipe right then. I have been chasing that high ever since - I got a feeling like that when I passed my first PPC ride, and also when I flew a jet for the first time, but it still wasn't anything like the original sensation.

I was distraught when ZCT was destroyed in a fatal accident a decade later, practicing the same manoeuvres that we did that first day. For reasons unknown, The spin was initiated and continued below the CARs minimum aerobatic recovery altitude. The wings hadn't come off, but a hole in the engine exhaust stack had allowed some carbon monoxide to enter the cabin, which combined with some health issues the instructor had, were listed as contributing factors in the accident.

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