Tour packages are becoming more and more innovative these days. No longer do they consist of boring old sightseeing activities. Some are so innovative that no one would’ve ever thought that they were possible before. Such is the case with the One-Day Pilot Tour which is up for review this month. Who would’ve thought that someday, you, too, could fly an aircraft, even without any experience whatsoever!
When I learnt of my assignment this month, I was filled with trepidation. For someone who is afraid of heights, it is quite a daunting prospect. I almost chickened out and let my colleague experience it instead, but then again, I am supposed to write about the experience - how could I put it into words effectively if I don’t experience it myself? Besides, it is an experience of a lifetime, after all.
Ready for Take-Off!
Early in the morning, we make our way to the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang. After a sugar-laden breakfast of doughnuts and coffee, we are then whisked away to the Terminal 3 hangar area, where we meet with our Chief Pilot, Anselm. By the time we arrive, it is starting to get terribly hot, but the day seems perfect for flying – the sky is clear and there is not even the slightest hint of a breeze in the air.
Upon arrival, we could see a line of tiny aircrafts of the Cessna variety to one side. My first thought when I see them is: “Surely we’re not going to fly in one of these! They don’t look very stable!” In fact, they look like one of those remote-control toy airplanes (okay, perhaps not that tiny!). I suddenly remember the hearse we saw parked near the guard’s post at the hangar’s entrance and I can’t help but wonder if it has anything to do with what we’re about to experience today.
I sign an indemnity form while waiting for the rest to arrive. The other parties with us that day are from the local media; one group is from a popular national daily and the other is from a huge broadcasting company. Anselm gives us a briefing on general safety procedures before taking us to the intended aircraft, a cute red-and-white single-engine Cessna 150. He then takes some time to brief us on the functions of each section of the aircraft, such as the importance of the side flaps and what happens during take off and landing.
There are ten of us altogether, but only two are flying – myself and a guy from the local daily. I let the guy go first, giving myself more time to calm down my nerves. Standing on the baking tarmac under the hot blazing sun, the tips of my fingers grow cold as I wait for my turn in the cockpit.
Soon, the time finally comes for me to go on the plane. My heart beats madly in my chest as I duly take my position next to Anselm. I slam the door shut, put on the headphones and cross my fingers, hoping for the best.
Anselm starts by briefing me on the functions of some of the controls in the cockpit. As we are taxiing along the runway, he teaches me how to control the direction of the aircraft by pressing firmly on either one of the brake pads with my foot. There are two sets of control sticks and brake pads in the cockpit – one for the pilot and one for the co-pilot. Anselm asks me to hold on tight to the control stick as we accelerate for take off.
Being so high above, up in the sky in that small aircraft, is a pretty surreal experience. It is a beautiful day, and the view from up here is quite amazing. As we circle the surrounding area, Anselm shows me how to use the control stick: pushing it makes the aircraft go downward, and pulling it makes the aircraft go upward. He makes me pull and push the control stick a few times, and laughs when he sees how queasy this climbing-and-plunging business is making me. My stomach is doing the Mexican wave all the time this is happening and I suddenly feel like throwing up. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and before I knew it, 30 minutes has passed. We prepare to land.
As the aircraft touches down, I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and relief that I’ve managed to get through it safe and sound despite my initial reservations and doubts. In fact, I actually enjoyed it! It was a truly exhilarating experience that I wouldn’t mind repeating. I’m glad that I forced myself to go through with it, because I can now testify that it is indeed a priceless experience!
For those with a fear of heights, I highly recommend this tour – who knows, it might just be the cure!
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