Up, up and away – taking a familiarization flight at Winnipeg Aviation

“Okay, Brenlee, you’re going to land this airplane,” says Dan Reeves, flight instructor and owner of Winnipeg Aviation.
These are words I never thought I’d hear – especially without some monumental crises happening around me and about 72 people who must’ve refused before me.
A surprising yet familiar calm sets in, and I choose to feign confidence instead of having a meltdown – maybe this is where the phrase “fight or flight” really comes from. I didn’t fight it – I just flew.
Obviously, there must’ve been some trust built up in me before this moment, or at least my instructor was faking some too. But the experience of going on a familiarization flight with Winnipeg Aviation really was settling, in general.
Getting acquainted
We spend a healthy hour going over parts of the plane – checking the wings, the gas level, the rudder (kind of the tail of the airplane) – and he explains using anecdotes and simple terms how many of these functions work.
When he explains that pull is “up” and push is “down,” I find myself going over the logic behind it over and over, practicing and committing it to memory. If I remember one thing, this has to be it.
Once we’re assured of the plane’s good condition, and record our “balance” (inch-pounds carried in the aircraft), we spend another generous 20 minutes getting acquainted with the controls and going through the flight checklist that any pilot would go through before taking off.
By the time we start out on the runway, I am already tangled up over the two pedals for driving. They’re as easy as common sense suggests – if you want to go right, push right. Left, push left. Someone who’s even driven a go-cart should be able to get this.
At one point, I overcompensate and nearly run off the runway – luckily, Dan has the same rudder pedals for steering and he rescues us.
I take a comfortable right turn later, reminding myself that sometimes things are really that easy: right means right.
Then, we talk about lift-off – with each other, and over the radio for clearance. We get the okay, and Dan explains just as we pick up speed that I am looking to use the horizon as a reference – continuing to watch it as we climb upward, pulling up slightly on the control column. (It’s sensitive and reacts immediately.)
A bit of a roadblock sets in at this point – literally. Because I’m so short, I can’t even see the horizon over the dashboard. I strain against my seat a bit, but in the end, I just accept it – at least I don’t have to look out for other cars.
Once we straighten off and I have a good view of where we are, high above Selkirk, I’m relaxed – it’s like driving with no obstructions.
Of course, Dan is “trimming” the aircraft for me, but I am in control of a plane in flight – and I’m totally okay with it.
The air pockets that cause some turbulence are much more settling when Dan has the wheel, because I still don’t quite have the confidence to believe I’m not the cause of them.
By the time he asks me to take over again, I’m happy to.
Once we’ve successfully landed, he tells me that flying is usually all or nothing: people are either hooked and can’t wait to go up again, or they know it’s not for them.
I am happily somewhere in the middle: I’m glad I got the opportunity, but I don’t think I’ve found a new career.
They do say it’s best to write from experience.
Want to try your own familiarization flight? Contact Winnipeg Aviation at 204-338-7923, or visit http://www.winnipegaviation.com.

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