This weekend Sandy and I celebrated our third year together. Over those three years she’s managed to surprise me with some really cool gifts, but this weekend in NYC I think she topped everything she’s done so far.
Around 3:30 on Saturday afternoon she took me to Penn Station, bought two round trip train tickets to the Ronkonkoma train station on Long Island, and hopped on a train with me. I had no idea where we were going or what we were going to be doing. An hour and twenty minutes later we arrived at the Ronkonkoma train station and someone came to pick us up. You know when you put a dog in a car and the dog doesn’t know where its going (to the vet? to the park?) the dog is all wound up and hyperactive? Yea, that’s what I was like. Suddenly I see a Southwest jet so I figure we are at the Islip airport. Then the car we were in pulled into a little driveway, and that’s when I saw the sign for the Heritage Flight Academy. It was like when the dog realizes he isn’t going to the vet, but to the park!
I guess I’d mentioned to her a few times over the past three years that I might one day like to take flying lessons. She found the Heritage Flight Academy flight school out at Long Island Macarthur Airport, and they have a special intro course where they let you fly the airplane.
We met the instructor, who was a really cool guy, and then he showed us a map of the area where we would be flying. Specifically, we were flying from Macarthur Airport over Fire Island, over the Atlantic Ocean, and then back inland. He also showed us two big thunderstorms that had formed to the north and that were heading towards us. After chatting about this stuff for about 5 minutes we headed out to the airplane that we would be flying, a Cessna 172.
After checking the plane over we finally hopped in and started taxiing out to the runway. On our way we had to wait for a Southwest Airlines jet to land, which I thought was pretty funny since we were going to take off on the same runway. I asked if there were any flocks of geese nearby, and he told me that there were not, but that the prop on the Cessna would chop them up if we hit one. Sweet!
As we moved into place the instructor went over a few last things and communicated with the tower, and then we revved up the engine and took off down the runway. The instructor told me to pull back, I did, and to my surprise the plane lifted off the ground in what seemed like 5 seconds! Sandy was recording everything from the back seat with my camera, so here’s what it looked like from back there:
After we leveled off it got really fun and I was able to look down and see what was below. Here’s another video Sandy took from the air:
We flew around for 30-40 minutes before it was finally time to return to the airport. Of course, the instructor handled the landing for us which was awesome because I didn’t want to have any part of that. It was smooth as could be, contrary to the way it looks in the video.
All the videos Sandy took are in this YouTube playlist. There are videos of taxiing to the runway, taking off, in flight 1, in flight 2, in flight 3, in flight 4, and landing. All the pictures from the day are in my gallery.
This was such an awesome surprise! The only problem now is that I think I’m hooked.