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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Discovery Flight

Every flight I've embarked on remains memorable to me, partly because I only have just over 130 hours total time but mostly because I love flying in a way that no words could explain. Some were scary, especially in the early days, some just absolutely beautiful and every single one of them was a learning experience. There was the near engine failure, which I might write about more at a later time, the close call with another plane over coastal Maine, racing the weather all the way home on my first trip alone and the time I thought I was going to die when the onboard traffic warning system showed me within milliseconds of colliding with another aircraft I just could not see.
For now, however, I will jot down a little more about why I fell in love with flying, and quote as an introduction one of history's great pilots and writers Antoine de St Exupery, or St Ex.

I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things
As a child, the mere sound of an airplane, large or small, overflying our house drew me outside, where I invariably lost myself in fantasies of soaring among the clouds, seeing the patchwork of fields, forests, lakes and rivers from the most beautiful vantage point and bathing in the orange fluid of the evening sky. Growing up, I spent time at the local airfield, watching light planes take off and land from a rudimentary grass strip, envious of the happiness that flying induced in those fortunate enough to do it.
It was just too costly for me, and parents who raised me well decided against spoiling their elder son. So I just dreamed but knew that one day I would roam the open skies too.
High school came and went, as did college and I found myself working as a reporter in Washington, D.C., far away from my native Europe. The job was fun, my colleagues all great and talented people and I enjoyed the city and its many bars and restaurants. After a few years I moved up the ladder and took a job with the company in Boston.
With more money in my pocket, it was at last time to stop dreaming the childhood dream and live it. So on a frigid day in Feb. 2004, I paid a visit to a local flight school for a discovery flight in a beaten up old Cessna 172 Skyhawk with no heat. Bundled up like eskimos Mike, the instructor, and I hopped into N12944 and headed up in the crystal clear blue winter sky for a lifechanging 30 minutes.
Mike took off and soon gave me the controls, instructing me climb to 2,500 ft. Minutes later, he let me make turns to the left and right before heading back. The feeling of controlling a plane was beyond words. The thrill was like nothing I'd ever felt before.
I was hooked. And litte did I know at the time just what significance 12944 would play only months later.
Here's the old bird and her bare and well broken-in panel!
As I drove home on that winter day, I knew for sure that my passion for aviation was not one to be enjoyed on the ground. So it was agreed: once winter passed, I'd start learning to fly.


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