A rather tardy afterthought

I just realised that I did not post about my trial flight, which took place a long time (if memory serves in was June 2001), 3 years before I ever set foot inside the Waikato Aero Club building. It came as a complete surprise to me (well, it was a birthday present after all), Susan had booked a trial flight with a (now defunct) flight school at Hamilton Airport and the first inkling I had that this was going to be a flight was when we turned off the highway into the road heading towards the airport.

The pilot was a nice guy by the name of James and we were to fly in a Cessna 172 (whose registration I cannot remember). The even bigger surprise was that James said that it was OK for Susan to come with us on the flight. She asked me if it was OK to come along. I mean, why did she need to ask me if it was OK if she came with me on my trial flight? An experience shared is always more rewarding if you ask me.

We taxied out and were cleared to depart off the old Grass 26 runway. James took off and once we were about 500AGL he handed over control to me and told me to head towards Hamilton. I took control and proceeded to gently steer the aircraft towards Hamilton. I remember flying us overhead the local rugby stadium and our house before James instructed me to turn out towards Raglan. Once we were on the outskirts of town we turned south and he asked if I could see the airport, which I couldn't (Hamilton airport is very hard to spot unless you know what you are looking for which at the time I didn't) so he said turn left till he told me to stop and I did. I remember once we rolled wings level there was a house sitting in the middle of a field that was generally ahead of the plane so I steered towards that till I saw the runway.

James had in the meantime trimmed the aircraft, gained a landing clearance and seemed content for me to continue flying. The runway got closer, and closer, and closer, we passed over the airport boundary road and I was still in control, over the boundary fence, over the runway threshold, I still still flying. At what seemed like the last possible second James just put his hands on the control column and said, "landing is just like this," chopped the power and flared in one go, and we touched down.

He then said I could taxi back but the fact I had no idea how the bungy nosewheel steering system of the 172 worked and the rather healthy case of shock I was experiencing made it rather difficult, so James took over and taxied us back. Susan never knew I nearly landed the plane until I told her later on. She nearly freaked out but decided it was probably a good thing she didn't know at the time.

I posted my experience on a USEnet group (rec.aviation.student) which created a mini flame war.

Still, I didn't stop grinning about the flight for some time afterwards (according to Susan) and the experience didn't deter me one bit from pursuing my dream to fly.