Born to Fly
By Christopher Gregg
I have loved aviation for just about as long as I can remember. When I was 4 years old, I got Microsoft Flight Simulator on our home computer and used it to practice flying different planes around the world. I have used many types of simulator software to practice on our PC since then, and during a summer program at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, I got a chance to fly a Cirrus 20 in the simulator there.
When I was 10 years old, I got my first real flight as a part of a deal my mom made with me to improve my grades at school. Her begging, pleading, and other offers didn’t work, but when she laid out the flight lesson, it lit my fire. While I did my school work, I kept thinking about that first flight. When I brought home the good report card, my mom said we were going up.
The flight was a couple of weeks away. I was going to fly in a Diamond DA-40, so I found a Flight Simulator add-on of the airplane and started practicing so I would be ready. The hardest part was waiting for the day of the flight. The night before, I could barely sleep.
Mom didn’t know it, but her choice of the DA-40 was especially appropriate because the DA-40 has a joystick like the one I was practicing with at home. All that practice paid off because I amazed the instructor. I knew about the controls in the plane and could fly it, just like I’d been doing on Flight Simulator for two weeks.
My feet barely made it to the pedals, so the instructor did the taxi and takeoff. But once we cleared the pattern, the instructor gave me full control and I flew for the first time in "real life." I couldn’t believe that I was finally in control of a real airplane. Mom was in the back seat as we flew over my hometown of Issaquah and further east to Snoqualmie Falls. When I felt the wheels touch the runway on landing, I was sad because I wanted to fly for many more hours.
On my second flight, I did my first "real life" touch-and-go. In my next lesson, we flew a Cessna 172—it did not have computerized controls like the Cirrus or DA-40 I’d flown before. It was like going back to the old days like when my mom learned to fly in a Piper Warrior. No glass cockpit. No computers!
One day I want to have a career in aviation as a pilot and aerospace engineer like Burt Rutan. For now, I continue to work on getting good grades to earn more flight lessons.
Chris Gregg, 12, is a student at Issaquah Middle School in Washington. He fell in love with airplanes at age 3 or 4, he said, and earned his first flying lesson at age 10.
December 9, 2009