I always knew that pilots had a lot of work to do – what with keeping us in the AIR and all – I just didn’t realize how constant and exhaustive that work was. The pilots (one from the desert and one from Spain) were very friendly in inviting me into the cockpit, “This is a once in a lifetime chance! Come on in!” As I quickly became acquainted with the more complicated seat belt, the Spanish pilot joked that I should consider this as a new career path. I’m sure there is more than seat belt smarts required for a career in the skies, but my pride did puff up a little bit, I’m not going to lie. After this initial interaction, they didn’t talk to me too much until it was time to go. I gave the final thumbs up, indicating that we were ready to lift off. How thrilling is that? The real thrill of what I was experiencing really sunk in when I saw the pilot turn the plane around and then… the runway stretched out before us. Obviously, I’ve flown a lot in my day, but seeing the runway and then watching the pilot push the accelerator forward, and both feeling and seeing the speed of the aircraft was amazing. It took so much will power not to let out a squeal or two hundred of excitement!
I also resisted the urge to touch any buttons. And I didn’t ask “What does this one do?” even one time. I’m proud of my ability to remain calm, even in the face of OH MY GOSH! I’M FLYING WITH THE PILOTS!!!!
The radio kept squawking with a voice from either the tower we just left or the tower we were heading towards. A string of numbers were rattled off that seemed to make sense to these men. I watched all the dials, mesmerized by the blipping and the streaming back and forth, and the rolling up and down the scales – until I realized that hey! We are flying! I should be looking out the window. Because of my situation, slightly behind the pilots, I didn’t have good access to the view. I saw a lot of blue. And some clouds. Once the busy-ness of the flight details died down a bit, the Spanish pilot asked if I wanted something to drink. I did the typical desert polite thing and refused, but then accepted when it was offered again. I had orange juice. (Did I mention? Even though The Mister and I decided last minute that I would fly to the capital alone, my body still managed to muster up a cold virus before the flight. I’m predictable, if anything.) On my return flight, I was given a measly water (since I was just a regular passenger sitting in a regular seat this time). The pilots and I chatted about what I do (I’m a mom) and my husband. The Spanish pilot and I laughed about Arabic language blunders.
The descent was amazing; it was like the ultimate view from the crest of the drop of a mega-roller coaster. We flew over a famous landmark – the perspective was incredible. I wish I had my camera. The co-pilot asked me, “Do you see the runway?” I scanned the horizon and couldn’t make out anything that even remotely resembled a runway. I shook my head – eyes wide and searching. The co-pilot laughed. “This is our job,” he said, ” We have to find the runway every time.” Within a couple of moments, the shadow of the runway came into view and soon, the lights guiding the edges were clearly seen as well.
The self professed A-Team touched us down so smoothly. I’ve only once before experienced such a soft landing. “I have to be honest, we don’t usually land like that, but since you are here…” White Girl is, as she has always suspected, a good luck charm.
Soon, the flight was over. The flight attendant that arranged this whole thing for me, opened the door and helped me gather my things. I gave her a hug and thanked her. I thanked the pilots for so generously sharing their space with me.
I still can’t believe that in this post 9-11 world, I was offered the great honour of flying in the cockpit. It’s not something I will soon forget. Charlie said, “I wish I was you, Mama.”