Flight of My Life

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When I was in fifth grade, I started becoming really interested in the military, but mostly in the Army. I thought it was so cool that those men and women were risking their lives to protect my family and me. But it’s something more than that, their protecting America; they’re protecting my home. I wanted to help them; I wanted to be there with them, standing up for what is right - protecting. My parents knew it wouldn’t last, they knew that next week I was going to want to be something different, and they were right.

The next year, when I started sixth grade, I decided that airplanes were way cooler than camouflage helmets. Suddenly I wanted to be in the Air Force, I told everyone that I was going into the Air Force after college. And of course my parents told me that it wouldn’t last. Well my grandfather found out about my “temporary” obsession, and one day while my grandmother was over she told me that he had started putting money away for me to take flight school. I was so excited that I didn’t even know what to say! I knew I was excited, but I didn’t know how to make my mouth move so that I could tell her!

Seventh grade started, and I had never been in an airplane before, and when I say never I mean NEVER. Not a commercial airplane, not a private airplane, nothing! So my dad decided that I should probably at least go in an airplane before my grandfather blows through all this money on something I’m afraid of. The whole family met up at a little airport out in West Houston. I’m not exactly sure what was going through my head that day, but I wasn’t at all scared. I knew my dad would be in the airplane with me, along with the instructor/pilot of course. But even though I had never actually seen a real airplane, or been close to a real airplane before, I wasn’t exactly scared; I think I was more excited, which is definitely a good thing.

So we get in the air and I’m going crazy. The only thing on my minds is how freaking awesome this is! I could see everything from that height; the world looked so small, the people looked like ants. I remember finally looking inside the airplane and being overwhelmed by all the instruments in front of me. When suddenly the instructor turns to me with this wry smile on his face and says, “OK! Take it away!” I shot him a look like, “um, are you CRAZY?” But some force lifted my hands to the yoke, curled my fingers around the handles, and told me that I could do it. Even though I thought the instructor was crazy for letting me fly his plane, I knew I wanted to fly it, knew that I had the desire to be able to get the feel for it. And now that I think back on it, I have no doubt that the force that lifted my hands that day, came from the very same desire to fly the wonderful, ingenious piece of machinery.

I really wish that my grandfather could have gone with me on the Discovery Flight, he was working, but I had a remarkable time telling him all about it. He really seemed to enjoy hearing about it too; it pleases me to know that the grandfather who was so unfamiliar to me before now shares this interest with me. If I didn’t know any better I’d surely say that he likes it too. Every time I go to visit him I get an ear full of stories about when he used to fly, or about crazy people he meets on the Southwest airplanes now. He tells me all about how they used to make airplanes, and how the Citabria is so much harder to fly than a Cessna, saying how I would absolutely love to get the chance to fly a Citabria. He was right, I would love it, and he was going to make it happen for me.

My Discovery Flight was in February, and by the time Christmas rolled around I had nearly forgotten about flight school. It would still crawl back into my mind every now and then, and I’d get real excited when it did, but it wasn’t the same. I didn’t feel that spark for it like I had used to. Christmas was a few days away, and I was happier than a mouse in a cheese factory. It’s my favorite time of year. Everything is just so beautiful during Christmas. The streets sparkle with twinkling lights, my ears ring with the sound of carols, and the fresh baked pastries taste like pure heaven in my mouth. I love making my parents get up early on Christmas morning so we can open our gifts. And I remember exactly how this Christmas morning went down.

Everyone had finished opening their presents and had migrated toward the kitchen for breakfast. I was still sitting in the living room admiring my new UGG shoes. I glanced up for just a second to look at something, and while turning my attention back towards the shoes; something shiny caught the corner of my eye. Thinking it was just an ornament that had fallen off the tree, I got up to go put it back on. What I found on the other hand was not an ornament, but was indeed an un-opened gift, a gift that had a bright red bow on it and sparkly gold letters. Those gold letters were different though; they spelled out some weird word that I couldn’t understand. K-I-E-R-S-T-E-N. I thought to myself, huh, that’s funny, that word is almost spelled the same way as my name, and I looked at it for a second, OH! That’s probably because it is my name! Feeling like a total goof ball I carefully untied the pretty red ribbon and opened the small green bag.

Inside the bag was a little black book with an envelope. I pulled out the envelope first; it contained a certificate with my name on it and a picture of some man that I had never seen before. As I read the letters on the certificate things began to clear up, I realized that Harvey and Rihn Aviation was obviously an airport. And “one hour of flight lessons” meant in a real airplane. I looked at the picture of the man sitting in a tiny red airplane, I still didn’t know who the heck he was, so I turned the picture over to find a short paragraph explaining. The man in the picture was Chris Hennington, and he was my flight instructor. He was a pilot that worked with my grandfather; he was awesome! “Do you think that might be something you’d like?” my grandmother interrupted my reverie. “Um, yeah! Yeah, this is most definitely something I would like!” I stuttered back. “Oh good! Did you see the pilots log book in there too?” She asked. I looked back into the bag, sure enough the little black book had little white letters on the front: PILOTS LOG. It was mine, my pilot’s log, my flight school certificate, my totally awesome grandparents.

He was watching T.V. when I walked inside the big house that was so familiar to me. My grandfather looked up and smiled; he walked over and gave me a big hug. “Are you excited or what?” he asked looking more excited than anyone. “A little nervous,” I told him truthfully, “but yes there is definitely some excitement mixed in there.” We both laughed as he helped me carry my things upstairs. It wasn’t long before he started talking about flying and telling me what to expect. My first flight lesson would be scary, but my grandfather assured me that Mr. Hennington would never ask me to do anything that he knew he couldn’t fix if I were to mess up. This made me feel a little less nervous, knowing that my grandfather used to teach flight lessons himself, he knew what he was talking about.

As we pulled into the tiny little parking lot of the tiny little airport, my heart was racing, racing with excitement. My head was swimming, swimming with the thought that I was going to screw up so badly and he wasn’t going to like me, or the thought that I wasn’t going to like him and he would still be mad at me. I was in a lose, lose situation that I couldn’t get out of – no, I didn’t know how to get out of. Mr. Hennington came outside and we immediately got started on the pre-flight. I can remember walking around the airplane trying to keep up with all the names and functions of everything. It wasn’t long before he told me to climb on in and buckle up! The airplane was smaller and a lot different than the Cessna from my Discovery Flight. Mr. Hennington would be sitting behind me, not next to me. And there was no yoke, just a black pole sticking up out of the floor. Not to mention this airplane had like, zero instruments compared to the enormous panel of instruments in the Cessna.

We got in the air and everything was going smoothly. I did everything as he instructed me, left turns; right turns, climbs, and descends, pretty basic stuff. The flight went by quickly, it felt as if someone had hit the fast-forward button on the remote to my life. Before I knew it I was back on the ground talking to my grandfather, it wasn’t until we were in the car on the way home until I became conscious of the fact that I just flew a freaking airplane! Despite the fact that someone had hit fast-forward and I wasn’t exactly positive that what just happened really happened, I knew that if it did really happen, then it was a total blast and I loved it!

It’s been about a year since I got that first certificate for lessons. I remember it like it was yesterday! I also remember never saying thank you to either of my grandparents. Just a simple “thank you” that’s all it takes to show my appreciation, but no, I was too busy bragging to all my friends about it. I realize today how blessed I am to have the opportunity to take flight classes. I’m blessed to have a grandfather who loves me enough to take money out of his hard work to pay for my flight school. I’m blessed to have such a supportive family, now they are behind me one hundred percent in my dream to become a pilot. I understand and have grasped that there are not many people that have an opportunity such as this one. I have taken it for granted, not fully appreciated or understood what this really means. It means I am blessed, and I am thankful.





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