The title of this post reminds me of Bill Murray’s character in What About Bob, when he is tied to the mast of a sailboat, yet yells, “I’m sailing!”
One of my goals was to fly an airplane – not take off or land, mind you – just fly. I’m kind of cheap, so it wasn’t likely that I was actually going to give money to someone with a plane to take me up just so I could take over the controls, so this goal seemed a bit unreachable. I was fortunate, however, to be principal of a middle school when we were selected to be a NASA Explorer School. This was a huge honor and proved to be a great partnership between our school and NASA.
One summer, our faculty went to a NASA facility to attend a science summer camp for teachers. While there, we were able to tour through most of their aircraft, including the one that travels through storms to gather data and the one that shuttles the Space Shuttle between California and Florida (I sat in the cockpit of both). We were also able to have our photo taken in the cockpit of a jet – quite a trip. We were also taken to the flight simulators and allowed to fly all kinds of aircraft – even taking off and landing. I was somehow able to land a jet in a vertical position on it’s tail – not easy, practical, necessary, repeatable (according to the flight instructors), or anything but humiliating. Anyway, the next day we were driven to a local airport and were taken up in a smaller prop plane and given the controls so that we could experience and understand flight. We had a flight instructor in the seat right next to us (who took care of take off and landing duties), but were in control for most of the actual flight. The instructor gave us directions and kept us on our toes. It was one of the most fun, yet slightly terrifying, experiences in which I have been engaged.
It was the best of all worlds… I was able to fly an airplane, meet a life goal, engage in an enjoyable experience, do something memorable, and not pay a cent to do so. It just doesn’t get any better than that.