Thursday, June 11, 2009

Light-Sport Chronicles: Ghost Wings


Remembrance of flights past and lessons learned


lscEvery flight has ghosts, if you’ll see them. Mine come in those times when I need a little help to get me through a tough spot, or raise my perspective above ground level to reconsider the depth and breadth of the singular, incomparable joy we call flight.
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THE GHOSTS OF FLIGHTS PAST. Never forget the lessons you learned along your aviation journey and the flights you experienced. (Photo by James Lawrence)
Every flight has ghosts, if you’ll see them. Mine come in those times when I need a little help to get me through a tough spot, or raise my perspective above ground level to reconsider the depth and breadth of the singular, incomparable joy we call flight.

I had many such visitations on my first solo cross-country in years, to fulfill the sport pilot license requirement.
The solo XC is modest enough at 75 miles, but sufficient to call upon flight-planning skills, situational awareness, piloting abilities and decision making throughout the variety of situations that may arise along the way.

The first leg out from my home training field, Hartford-Brainard Airport, Conn., was to Groton-New London, which I had been to exactly once—two hours earlier on my dual XC. I’ve lived “out East” for seven years, but Southern California’s desert tans, gray mountains and ocean blues are my birth imprint for how a landscape oughta look.

Flying over New England’s deciduous checkerboard mottle of trees, farmland, villages and waterways, therefore, is accompanied by mild stress. At times, to my Southern California–bred eyes, every direction looks like every other direction. What passes for “mountains” out East are mere bumps out West. At 2,500 feet, landmarks are subtle—if you can find them at all through the Plexiglass.

Nonetheless, my trusted instructor, John Lampson, has decreed me sufficiently competent to fling my eager craft through footless halls of air and seek exotic new landing strips. So here I cruise at altitude, a tad anxious that maybe, just maybe, I’m not as sharp as he thinks I am.