Not quite the way I was picturing this day. No wait, back up a week…ok, two weeks. Well, more like almost 30 years.


My First Ride

It was around that time I was nibbled on by the flying bug. N8824C. My cousin’s fiancee was a CFI and wanted to take my friend and I up for a ride. Page Airways, Rochester NY. Back seat of the Piper Archer. OK. That wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. I mean, I always liked flying but the “back seat” was not going to be much different than the few commercial flights I had been on.

As my luck would have it, my cousin was not so good with small aircraft. 2 minutes into the climb out she was making full use of the air sickness bag.  I never thought to ask if this was the first time she had been up with her fiancee but it could certainly have been her last. We promptly circled around, made our landing and surveyed the damage. My cousin would be fine. There was the offer to be done with the day but my cousin said no. We should definitely go back up.

Back to the plane. Normally, I’m the shy type. I listen but try not to talk. Don’t ask for much. First time I had met this guy so for sure I was keeping to myself.  Not sure what happened but somewhere from deep inside the question just came up…”Can I ride up front?”


Wow, I like this guy.  Welcome to the family.

He puts me up there in the left seat. No, I had no idea which seat was which. I knew that in a car in the USA you drove on the left. I could have assumed the same was true in an airplane but I figured, he’s the pilot, they must drive on the right.

Hadn’t hit my growth spurt yet so my initial view was primarily gauges. That was perfectly fine with me (although something I am sure will be a problem going forward). Pete was telling me all about the gauges. How to read each of the “6 pack”, what they did, how they would react. We went through the pre-flight checks, engine run up, taxi and ready to go. This was WAY cooler than Atari…and Atari was WAY cool at that time.

While doing the checks, Pete had the door open. Same for taxi and even most of the takeoff roll. I suppose I could have been worried but no way. If the UPS guy could get away with it surely we could too. In my delight and total mental engagement to the new tasks on hand, I was obviously oblivious to the prior event with my cousin and its lingering olfactory effect.

Pete was not. So, while moving with the door open certainly goes against the seat backs and tray tables in the full, upright, and locked position mantra, as a safety measure it was probably the best move. Had either or my friend came to our senses (of smell) again…

BTW: Pre-flight checklist did not include replacing the air sickness bag.

The flight itself was truly amazing. Clear skies, clear air and truly a “feeling” of flight. If that wasn’t enough to get me hooked, I got some time on the controls. I hadn’t even steered a car yet and here I was “flying” a plane! Boy was I going to be popular (well, it was a thought).

The radio calls…that was another thing that stuck with me. They were formal, official, important. And they were in some strange language. 8824Charlie. That’s what stuck with me that day. That was our name and that’s how they knew us. It’s been almost 30 years. I’ve forgotten plenty of things but never that tail number.

I guess you never forget your first.

I’ve flown around the world no less than 10 times since then but always as a passenger. I’ve logged a lot of PC simulator time as well. It doesn’t really count for anything but it certainly helped to keep the interest alive. Riding in the plane…that’s always nice but it’s just a ride. Flying the simulator…that’s always nice but despite increasing sophistication, I can not get that “feel” back.

So, why not just do it? Took far too long to make the decision but here I am. I’m training to be a private pilot.

Signed up for the first 3 hours of flight training….and utterly grounded. I guess planning to start in February in the Northeast is going to have some unavoidable weather delays.

So, I begin the slow journey, expanding my horizons.

When my instructor asked how much I knew about flight I relayed part of this story as well as my “game time” flying. I said I know just enough to be a total danger to myself so I am going to do my best to just keep my mouth shut and learn.

I know it is going to be hard but I really need a challenge. Need to drink from the fire hose once again.

My aim is to keep track of the sessions here. Some details, some notes, what worked, and what really didn’t. I’m confident going into it but I also know there will be a boatload (or in this case planeload) of humbling.  When I get frustrated or disconnected from the process, I’d like to be able to come back here and re-walk the path.


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