I still remember the feeling I had as the Cessna 172 Skyhawk first left the ground: thrill; wonder; disbelief. The pilot was my 24 year-old boyfriend who also owned the plane. It didn't feel right, we were kids really, and there we were, headed to 10,000 feet in the air without a chaperone - or automatic pilot - or something.
As we flew over the house I grew up in, I noticed it looked different. My classic New England neighborhood was difficult to locate at first, obscured by hundreds of trees which, for some reason, hadn't seemed so numerous from the ground. The giant sledding hill behind my house which had always attracted so many neighborhood kids in the winter, now looked almost flat from this vantage point. Apparently it wasn't so big in the overall scheme of things.
As for the pilot, he was an excellent guide. Sensing my discomfort, he calmly explained every nuance, every noise, every event throughout the flight. I learned about rudders, and flaps, and stalls. To this day, commercial airline flights are easier to deal with after this early initiation into flight.
I would later learn how to take off, fly and land a small plane, as well as jump out of one at 10,000 feet. Over those two years I became quite comfortable in a small aircraft, often flying with him between a small Massachusetts suburb, Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard. We would often sidestep the weekend gridlock via air, quietly landing on a deserted grass runway along the beach. Two bikes stored in the back of the plane would then get us around our destination. Flying is an expensive hobby, but it is certainly one which offers ample rewards.
Pilot's License Ratings
There are several types of private pilot license ratings, from the beginning levels up through the instructional and commercial levels. Most private pilots obtain either of the first two ratings and can fly under visual flight conditions or instrument flight conditions. Visual flight conditions mean that the pilot can only fly when there is optimum visibility--during the day and when there is no cloud ceiling in the sky.
Instrument flight conditions mean that a pilot can navigate the sky day or night, no matter what the cloud conditions are like. At this level, pilots learn how to rely on instruments, rather than their internal sense of up and down, as this is often tricked when one can't see the horizon.