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The Joy of Flight: A lifelong dream of flying becomes a reality

I’ve always wanted to fly. I remember as a kid being fascinated with anything to do with airplanes. One might even say I completed my first solo when I was in middle school.

My family was living in Boise, Idaho, then. My aunt and uncle in Colorado needed a babysitter for a week during summer break, and I volunteered. I’d never flown before. Sure, my first “solo” was in United’s Boeing 737 with a hundred or so other passengers, but I was alone. One of our neighbors at the time was a United pilot and happened to be on the same flight. He wasn’t the captain, but he got me into the cockpit to meet the crew. I was walking on air!

Then came my teen years and the release of Top Gun. I hesitate to admit this, but my best friend and I knew all of the important lines by heart. We went around for a year wearing silver reflective sunglasses and faux leather flight jackets with patches we collected from various airshows, occasionally blurting out “I feel the need, the need for speed!” Yes. We were “those guys.” And, of course, we both wanted to be military pilots.

Somewhere along the way my priorities changed. Those sunglasses broke. My flight jacket no longer fit. Learning to fly became just another of so many childhood dreams that aren’t meant to follow us into adulthood.

Until now.

The flying bug got me again. Now I’m 33 years old and married with two kids. I’m an advertising writer and in the course of doing some research for a potential client in the aviation industry, it happened. I just felt the need to learn to fly (the need for speed, as my younger self would have put it).

I called Midwest Executive Aircraft at Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport (LXT) near where I live and set up a discovery flight. It rained all morning on the day of my flight. Luckily I had decided on an evening adventure. And as I sat at home just three hours before my flight, the sun started poking through the clouds.

I won’t lie. I was pretty nervous. What was I thinking? You’re supposed to let go of such dreams. That’s what growing up is all about, right? Who do I think I am? I’m the guy who would always get carsick as a child. I’m the guy who still nearly hyperventilates the first time I’m a passenger in someone’s car. I’ve never flown in a small aircraft! I should just call the airport and call the whole thing off!

Too late.

I got to the airport early. I sat and watched a couple of students do a bunch of touch and goes. All the while my excitement kept growing. I was surprised, actually. Once I got to the airport I wasn’t as nervous as I was sitting at home. People have been flying for a long time. I could do this. I could really do this!

As it turns out, my flight instructor Steve Reaves was in one of the airplanes doing all of those touch and goes. He introduced himself then went to debrief his student. After that, we went out to the airplane. Wow, it’s small. I’m 6 feet 4 inches tall and about 250 pounds. My instructor is short and stocky. It’s a good thing we were going up in a Cessna 172 instead of the Cessna 152!

We taxied to the runway. We turned onto the centerline, and he said, “When the speed indicator reads 55 gently pull back on the yoke.” Frankly I didn’t have time to be nervous anymore! Just like that we were in the air. It was so smooth. For a second I wasn’t sure we’d left the ground.

We flew around, found my parents’ house where my kids were swimming in the backyard and circled them a couple of times while I snapped some pictures. Then Steve had me make a turn and follow the highway to downtown Kansas City.

Since this was a discovery flight, it only lasted 30 minutes. Before I knew it, and far too soon, we were contacting Lee’s Summit traffic about our approach. The landing was smooth. I can’t wait to go up again. In fact, I scheduled my first official lesson for next Saturday.

The adventure begins!

Jeff Berney, AOPA 5969747, an advertising writer in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, has logged 9.5 hours of flight training.

As originally published in October 2007 edition of Flight Training magazine.

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