Last week I was very sick. I started feeling bad Monday afternoon and swore up and down that I wasn’t sick. Tuesday I went to work and attempted to stay in spite of feeling like death. The doc I was working with called the practice manager and got the green light to send me home. Checkmate, I guess.
I spent three days at home, alternately having a sore throat and having a fever. I went and got antibiotics, which upset my stomach, but I was determined to make it to the Houston Half.
While I was in bed trying to will my sickness to leave my body, I got a text from my friend Richard who is literally the one person in my life with the power to make me do questionable things. He asked if I wanted him to come up in his plane and pick me up for the race. I weighed the options of being terrified of flying versus not wanting to drive 4 hours when I felt awful, and agreed to being picked up.
That is how I ended up sitting at a very small airport on Saturday afternoon with my gear bag, my hands shaking and my eyes darting from side to side. When my buddy pulled up in his plane, I was a bit alarmed. It was smaller than I expected and very delicate-looking. I was further alarmed when I saw it had a propeller. Richard threw the gear and my computer in the back seat while I put my seatbelt on very tightly and made sure the door was locked. He fitted me with a headset and checked all the little switches and knobs, then we taxied out while he told me his plan for plane failure. I thought I couldn’t get more alarmed, but then we took off.
I have never been a fan of takeoff or landing in any plane, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were both going to die in a mildly fiery crash, so the Andrew Bird song “Fiery Crash” kept playing in my head. We got into the air safely, though, and once it had been confirmed that I wasn’t going to pass out I was on my way to Houston.
Ascending to 5500 feet was a little scary, but once we were at cruising altitude I could relax a little. I still became alarmed when he got a drink of water but I’m just a nervous person. It was really interesting being in the cockpit for a change. Listening to the COM chatter was also interesting, though I had a terrifying moment when a skydiving pilot had his finger on the button and was yelling “everybody out!” That is not something I want to hear when my pilot is fiddling with knobs. Not even a little.
Watching the sun go down was actually really awesome. I was a little afraid that if I looked too far to the right I’d tip the plane over but it didn’t stop me from taking pictures of the sunset. I’ve never been in a plane where I was able to see so much of the ground as we moved over it. Usually we’re above the clouds so I read or type the entire time. We’re also usually in a bigger plane so the little shifts from the wind aren’t scaring the hell out of me, but it’s a trade off.
When we got within visual range of Houston, it was a pretty cool sight. This may be one of my favorite pictures from the flight. Landing was actually less scary than in a commercial jet (apart from when we had to turn to access the runway), because I kept thinking “we could totally survive a crash from this height.” Richard apologized for the bumpy landing but I thought it wasn’t bad. I didn’t feel the need to get hammered, so it was all good. It definitely was better than my last terrifying flight because this time everything was being explained to me and I got to listen to updates from the tower, and honestly I have more confidence in Richard’s abilities as a pilot because he is literally the smartest person I know.
The flight home was a little better, with the exception of takeoff because when all is said and done I’m still a huge weenie. There was a little more wind so I had a few frantic moments, but for the most part I enjoyed it.
I have a feeling that if I flew more in the tiny plane I would be a lot better about it, but for now let’s just be glad that I didn’t have a panic attack, and that my boss didn’t tell me about his terrifying experience in a small plane before I left. Someone at work said I had a lot of balls riding in the tiny plane. I have to answer that with a big ol’ NOPE. Also good to know for next time? I can totally bring booze on the tiny plane!