It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s…yea, it's a plane. But it’s me flying a plane! My boyfriend, Nick, and I had the chance to go up in a little 1999 Cessna 172R with our instructor, Josh, for a lesson in flying. We arrive at Justice Aviation at the Santa Monica Airport with butterflies in our stomachs. It isn’t so much nervousness as excitement and an overdose of coffee consumption. Justice Aviation trains aspiring pilots to become certified, but they also offer special packages if you’re looking for a unique one-time introductory experience. Some students from the school walk in with books and ask questions. The instructors all seem really knowledgeable and friendly. I glimpse a flight simulation machine in one of the side rooms. We will bypass that completely and head straight to the clouds. No books. No lessons. No idea what I'm doing.
I'm up first in the cockpit. The plan is that I fly over the coastline past Malibu and back. We land and switch places at the wheel before Nick flies us over Beverly Hills and Hollywood.
Headset. Check. Seatbelt. Check. Tray tables up. Um.
The only other time I’ve been in a small airplane was when I jumped out of one a few years ago on my birthday. But that’s different. That is a complete lack of control. You’re just a passenger in a plane until someone opens the door and attached to someone else, you fall out. This time, the fate & well being of three precious, young lives in this hunk of metal lies in my smooth novice hands. Dramatic enough?
And we’re flying! High in the sky where humans were never intended to be. The steering is surprisingly sensitive. A heavy-handed lean to the right and you’re practically at a 45 degree-angle. Once we hit the desired altitude we pretty much coast; cruising at 120 mph and taking it all in. It is an absolutely perfect day to go up as Josh said in his four years of flying he’s never seen L.A. so clear. Focusing on one point is hard because every road, building, and car fight for your attention like amateur night at The Pink Possum. We can see all the way to Catalina Island, the Canary Islands, Pasadena, to Hermosa Beach. Los Angeles is fickle, but today - she's never been finer.
Flying is a high man’s sailing - all that open space. The 180 degree turn around is the best part. The plane is on its side and out the front window is a full ocean view. For a few seconds, I seriously expect to use my seat as a floatation device.
1. Pop some Dramamine if you’re sensitive to motion. I took one and still got queasy towards the end.
2. Cher’s Malibu house is the size of Texas even from 2,000 feet high.
3. This may be a no-brainer, but be sure to bring a camera. You’ll want to document this unless you’re a bird and this is your everyday. And if you are, teach me how to poop on people.
I've been thinking of flying a plane as one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you never forget. But Nick brings up a good point. If you have a great time up there it doesn't have to be a historic one time thing. You can always do it again.