Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ode to Gillian

Last Saturday I got up at 4:30 for one last lesson with Rich before my scheduled FAA flight exam (both oral and practical). So focused was I on what lay ahead that I didn't even stop to look out my window. Nope, it wasn't until I walked outside and saw lightning in the distance that it occurred to me that I might not be flying that morning. A quick call to the FSS confirmed the obvious -- there were convective sigmets (i.e., thunderstorms) in the area -- so no flying. I called and woke Rich up because misery loves company. Um, I mean I called Rich to make sure that he had looked out his window. He confirmed that he had and we both went back to sleep.

I arrived at the designated examiner's office shortly before 9 for my oral exam. He quizzed me on airport signage, charts symbols and interpretation, hypotheticals involving plane operations and equipment, weight and balance problems, conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius and vice versa, then he reviewed my cross country flight plan, and finally, just when I was beginning to wish I had had more than two bites of my breakfast bagel, he asked me if I wanted to go flying. It was about 11:30, and the sky looked clear.

A phone call to the FSS, however, indicated that the good weather was not going to last long enough to complete the exam. A line of thunderstorms was approaching from the West. We agreed to reschedule for Thursday morning before he sent me on my way, with only a semi stern warning to not lose all my money on the tables.

Given the approaching storms, we kicked our flight preparations into high gear. Rich needed to get out to his bachelor party, and Gillian, Shivi and I just needed to get to the beach to party. Although I would have been more excited had my practical been completed, I was still on a high from having passed the oral.

and Gillian made the planes look good while Rich and I finalized plans.

In the four months Gillian has been living with me, she has witnessed most of my journey towards pilothood and has even learned a good deal along the way herself. Yep, it makes me darn proud that she not only now appreciates the origin of my "Remove Before Flight" t-shirt, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

After we took off, we got a Bravo Clearance to fly over Baltimore at 5,500 AGL. It was my first time flying over Baltimore in daylight, and I have no doubt that our flight path wavered slightly as I ogled the sights beneath us.

Both Gillian and Shivi captured some great shots from their spots in the back.

Gillian was very excited that her BFF was able to come on her last flight.

After all, it's not nearly as much fun to take fake "I'm so scared of flying" or "look Mum, I'm falling out of an airplane" photographs by yourself.

At one point, Rich and I considered whether there might be an excess of carbon monoxide in the plane, but ultimately decided that Gillian and Shivi are just naturally crazy.

After arriving in Atlantic City, we were momentarily disappointed to discover that it was not kosher to have alcohol on the boardwalk. However, it didn't take us long after checking into our 1.5* hotel to find a bar that served tequila. Yep, pilots are a resourceful sort.

After the bar, we decided to check out a fancy new mall. The people-watching was fantastic.
Then we decided to cause a little trouble out on the pier.

When that got old, we found a bar on the beach and took bets as to whether the local band had purposefully turned off the only female singer's mike. Rich then made friends with Gregory, who worked at The Rainforest Cafe two years ago. Gregory warned Shivi that "somebody's daughter is in trouble tonight." Gillian, Shivi and I quickly agreed that it wouldn't be anybody's daughter we knew.

As we made our way back to the hotel so Rich could get going to his soon-to-be brother-in-law's bachelor party, Shivi and Gillian decided to take a turn playing the drums with some aspiring musicians.

Then we cleaned up (just a bit) and took the Tropicana Tiki Bar by storm.

The bartenders could make vodka redbulls with the best of them, the tunes were rocking, and the night slipped away.

We eventually decided to crash the bachelor party, where Rich, Gillian and Shivi paid tribute to Atlantic City with a locally (i.e., Gregory) learned sign of respect: Fist Pump!!

The next morning we were moving a bit slowly, but there was no rush to return to D.C. When we finally got up in the air, the flying conditions were absolutely beautiful. Day 2 in the Piper felt much more familiar than Day 1. Of course, sitting on the cowl plugs helped as it drastically improved my line of sight.

Oh, how far I've come since my second lesson when I was annoyed at Rich's suggestion that I look into purchasing a booster seat. But who needs a booster seat when you have cowl plugs???

Spirits were high as we sailed onwards to D.C. I had to take one last peace sign photograph for Gillian, who's doing a Fist Pump, while Rich made clear he wasn't flying, and poor Shivi undoubtedly wondered what travelling circus she had signed up with.

I reclaimed my camera from Gillian long enough to capture the view off to my left, and marvelled at the wondrous freedom general aviation offers.

As we approached Gaithersburg, Gillian gave me a silent shout-out from the back seat, imitating my call sign.

Although I would have been sad had I stopped to think that my last flight with Gillian (at least for a while) was about to come to an end, it was a near perfect weekend adventure.

And I wouldn't change a thing about it, or these last four months. I know Gillian doesn't need me to write how much I'm going to miss her, but I'm going to do it anyway. She has lived through most of this adventure and has been unconditionally understanding when I've cancelled plans because of the need to study or fly, has been my devoted passenger on numerous training flights, has encouraged me when I needed encouraging, has taken countless photographs to satisfy my blogging urges, and, recently in a D.C. cab, proved that she is, hands-down, my #1 flying fan.

I know this is a comma and not a period, that every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end, and any other number of cheesy expressions that are supposed to help you keep perspective when all you want to do is be sad. But I am sad that Gillian is leaving.
There is no doubt that it has been a great ride, though.

In fact, several.


At August 12, 2008 at 11:29 AM , Blogger Greg said...

"Belgium Approach, this is Tiger 28244, minimum fuel...."

At August 12, 2008 at 11:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many ways can we say PROUD!!!??
Congratulations, Amy, on a wondrous adventure, which now continues on to the next chapter.....
Tu as fait si bien, Cherie!!
Love, Mum and Dad


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