Christian Wiley reflects on the beauty of learning how to fly a 180 Cessna and the connection he's built with his grandfather along the way.
The cool morning breeze blows over me as I step out of my car onto the cold airport concrete. I walk over to my hangar, fiddling with the keys before I twist the brass knob. I meet my instructor Patrick at the door. Patrick has been flying planes for years, so I feel safe to fly with him. The hangar door lifts up the side of the building and creaks trying to awaken the metal door from its slumber. As the door is lifting, I begin to contemplate the journey I am about to embark on. I wonder where I will fly to, what I will see. The hangar door is open now and has exposed the finely manufactured aircraft. The plane has sleek spotless windows and wings that seem to never end. The propeller is a silvery metal almost the same color as a Macbook.
Before I can embark on my journey, I must do a pre-flight check. Pre-flight is where you check the aircraft for any blemishes such as hornet nests or missing bolts. You also check the tools and gauges to make sure the plane is safe to fly. Before I start the pre-flight though, I make sure the key is outside the ignition and sitting on the dash. I make my way around the aircraft, feeling the cold metal as I walk by. I feel for missing bolts. I look down the pipes and tubes hoping to not see any unwanted guests. I lift the wings at the bendy segment to make sure they don’t have a problem moving. I check the gas and oil levels. After the plane has passed the initial inspection, I can start my journey.
Patrick and I pull the plane out of the hangar and get ready to board the plane. I get knots in my stomach every time I am about to fly. I feel nervous at first, but once you get in the sky it all goes away. I am relieved with the calmness of the sky, the breeze flowing through my hair. I am in the driver’s seat, and I am flying the plane. I enjoy being in the driver’s seat and being in control, but at the same time I want to look out the window. Flying the plane is so calming, like there is nothing to worry about. Patrick is co-pilot and has access to take over if needed. Before flying, you taxi, which is driving with your feet on the ground. When you get in the air, you use the steering wheel. We get in the plane and taxi to the takeoff strip. We radio in our departure and prepare to race down the runway. We get the throttle going full blast as the plane hums a tune. Then we start racing down the runway and the magic begins. It is amazing. You feel like you're just speeding down a road until suddenly you are in the air. My favorite feeling is the second you go from being terrestrial to soaring into the sky. It is an overlooked miracle that we commonly disregard. We rise up above the airport, flying higher and higher. The air is refreshing, and you can feel the sun’s beams displaying onto your skin. The temperature is not cold or hot; it is a perfect mix.
We get the throttle going full blast as the plane hums a tune. Then we start racing down the runway and the magic begins.
Effortlessly, we soar through the sky looking at the ground below. The earth looks so different and beautiful from the sky. We see rivers, forests, and mountains all from the ground. However, we don’t realize how a bird’s eye view can change your perspective and show how beautiful the world really is. You can see it all from the sky. The vast mountaintops trickled with ivy green trees, where it runs off and meets the cerulean rivers. There is so much to see and take in, and honestly it is breathtaking. Sometimes it is hard to balance taking in the beauty and staying on task. I just have to look ahead and witness the beauty while watching for other planes. My favorite thing is turning around because when you tip the wing over I can look at the earth below. I am still focusing on the task at hand while taking in the beauty. I can see cows grazing in pastures and children playing football in a field. The earth looks like a wonderfully crafted art piece from the sky. You can see the miraculous detail and beauty God put into the earth.
When I am flying, I feel open and free like a huge relief has been lifted on me. Flying is so close to my heart because my Grandpa flies as well. I just started flying this past year, but my grandfather has been flying for as long as I can remember. It has just been a constant; he has been flying since before I was born. When I saw him soar through the sky twisting and turning, I was inspired. As I sat in the passenger seat on my first voyage with him, my passion for flying began. Those same beauties that had made him fall in love with flying struck me. The sun glistened on our faces as we raced through the sky filled with laughter, true happiness across both of our faces. I strive to be like him, and I devour the slightest chance I get to be like him. The wind blowing through our hair as we soar is the gateway to our connection. We can fly together and share the bond of seeing the miraculous world below. We don’t fly as much together now, but we still go fly together from time to time. Now it is more of sharing the experience and talking about flying, rather than physically soaring the clouds with him. I would much rather fly with my grandpa than eat at a steak restaurant with him because I’ll more likely remember the flying.
Flying is a magical experience that can’t be fully described until you are doing it. It is nothing like flying on a commercial flight. You are in control, and it feels more real. You can see the world and not just through a small window. It is all around you, and you can witness true beauty. You get to make memories with people and your surroundings. Flying impacts me and makes me realize how big the world is. It makes me see how we often take the world for granted. It shows how amazing God is and how he cares so much about the world. When I fly, I am reminded of true happiness and how grateful I am to live in such a beautiful world.