Monday, April 6, 2009

I Remember When

My final year of highschool, I worked on our student yearbook, including the section called "I Remember When..." It was an enjoyable section to write, as other peoples' memories often triggered long-forgotten memories of my own. As Greg and I were flying the Tiger over Ohio a few Mondays ago, on our second business trip to Detroit, Greg noted, "Now that we've done it twice, it's like the thing we used to do. When we're old, we can look back and say, remember when we used to fly the Tiger to Detroit for business?" I agreed. "Yeah, very cool."

Made all the cooler, of course, by our tiny tigerS. TigerS you say? Why yes, indeed. After Greg kidnapped my tiny tiger and I threw a fit in front of Greg's instrument instructor because Greg refused to return him to me, John apparently decided that Greg had kidnapped tiny tiger because he was secretly hankering for one of his own. (John IS quite insightful.) So, voila! John bought Greg his very own (albino) tiny tiger.

And then there were two.

There were some good jolts of turbulence as we flew over Maryland, and as I synched my seatbelt tighter, Greg lamented that he had already hit his head several times.

Perhaps it was the distraction of the turbulence, but it was not until I attempted to place the tiny tigers on Greg's shoulder and take a picture that he seemingly became aware of their presence. (Yes, they had been sitting on the dashboard the entire time. Yes, that's really the container of milk you swore was not in the fridge when you looked five seconds ago.) At first, Greg tried to open the canopy to toss them outside. Failing that, he did his best to glare at me while still flying straight and level. I did my best to capture the moment on film, while still keeping the tiny tigers just out of arm's reach. Not an easy task, but I've had 31 years of experience tormenting my older brother, so I am quite skilled at such endeavors.

Not touching, not touching ...

As we (I) settled into the flight, familiar views of Harper's Ferry were traded for the increasingly-familiar views of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Hard at work on his instrument rating, Greg's primary goal during the crosscountry was to log as much instruments time as possible. So, I was the "lookout" while he flew "under the hood." I could still talk to him, although it is a little odd to talk to someone who never makes eye contact. There were certain advantages, of course...

The haze lifted as the sun settled lower in the sky and I worked on my photography for a while and then got quizzed by Greg on instrument approach plates and procedures.

Cleveland eventually appeared at the edge of Lake Erie and our trip across the lake made for some nice shots.

Although Greg couldn't see it, the sun setting over the water was beautiful. It was also possible to see all the way across Lake Erie, whereas the last time we'd flown the route, haze had obscured the horizon. Only once or twice did Greg test my lack of fear of flying by deviating from straight and level as he flew us over the lake (while still under the hood).

Soon enough, we were crossing over Ontario.

We discussed how much it would likely cost to buy the below spit of land and build a runway. I later realized it's a national park, so there might be a few environmental permit problems, but it really would be a beautiful spot for a runway.

As we came into Detroit, Greg got clearance from the Tower to do an instrument approach. It was an interesting experience as the co-pilot. I debated in my head how far from "on the ball" I would be comfortable letting Greg get before insisting that he take off the hood and correct the situation. Fortunately, Greg didn't test my limits and landed us easily at KDET.

Greg was scheduled to argue two motions and I was scheduled to argue one the following afternoon. The weather was deteriorating by the time we arrived at the Court house. We were soon informed that, naturally, the Judge was also running late. With an eye towards both the weather and my desire to argue the motion I had so diligently prepared for, I was of mixed emotions when the Judge announced that he would hear Greg's two motions and reserve mine to a later date.

At the end of the hearing, the Judge engaged us in conversation. When asked after our travel plans, Greg noted that we were both pilots and would be flying ourselves back to D.C. The Baliff looked so shocked at Greg's statement that I laughed, which caused co-counsel to say "You're joking!" This, of course, only made me laugh harder. When we finally convinced everyone that we were both actually pilots and that the weather was rapidly deteriorating, we were literally ordered to high-tail it to the airport and get ourselves home.

I snapped the above and below UFO'ey pictures after we'd landed at KDET, and I included them here because I WANT TO BELIEVE...

When we got back to KDET, we fueled up, and I prepared to fly my "I'm hard on you because it's good for you" AOPA mentor for the first time. Good thing there were 30+ knot winds to help make sure my take-off was textbook clean ... or not. Damn that ball!

As I climbed up over Lake Erie, I demanded that Greg take a few shots of Detroit, as the conditions had never been so clear. He humored me, and then hunkered down to assume the role of lookout as I flew instruments home. Flying with another pilot can be a great learning experience, and my flight with Greg was no exception. He knows the Tiger and her instruments better than I do, and with the exception of a one exasperated "I KNOW!", which got me a "GOOD LORD, MCMASTER!" in return, we managed to not yell at each other the entire flight.

Dusk faded to dark somewhere over Ohio. Comfortably ahead of the storm, we had a nice tailwind pushing us along, city lights twinkling and winking at us, and we were home before ten. As we came into Gaithersburg, Greg, foreshadowing his future as a CFI, talked me through a straight-in approach on runway 14, which I will be practicing a lot of once I start my instrument training in earnest. As we tied down the plane, I silently wished that I had taken off and landed Iceman clean, just to prove to Greg that I could.

I suppose that's the fascination/addiction of flying, though. Just because you kiss the runway today, doesn't mean you'll grease it tomorrow. It's an ever-changing set of variables, fueling a never-ending desire to get back up in the air and try and do it all better the next time.


At April 7, 2009 at 10:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

where is greg's life jacket?

At April 7, 2009 at 11:10 AM , Anonymous Annemcmaster said...

So glad to see Tiny Tiger has a friend! How cute is that!
Flying "under the hood" does not appeal to me...glad to know you and Greg find it so exciting!
As always, the pictures tell a story all their beautiful up there!

At April 8, 2009 at 3:10 PM , Blogger Greg said...

I "remember when" pilots were still cool -- back before somebody introduced stuffed animals into the cockpit. Now I have to wear a hood, to hide my shame....

At least I was happily impressed with Amy's piloting skills!


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