I joined the navy as an enlisted man when I was 18. I happened to be on the USS Stennis and got to see the aviation world. I ended up going to the naval academy but decided not to fly because the time commitment was 10 years.
I kind of forgot about flying but 5 years after getting out of the Navy, I took a Groupon aviation class. I was reminded of the excitement and how cool it was to fly and see the world from above. I was not sure if I wanted to commit to getting the license, so I decided to take another class just to make sure.
I took the class and decided that flying was for me. I like it because I get to see the world from above, I get to go to cool places, and because every flight is an adventure. It gives me a feeling of freedom when I am up in the sky and I can go and check out places.
One unique flight was when I flew to the Grand Canyon from San Diego. It was my longest flight at that point.
I was flabbergasted by the beauty of the canyon and thought it was the coolest thing that I have ever seen. The next day I flew during sunrise to see monument valley. It was amazing to experience the Navajo sacred lands from above while the sun was rising. Incredible experience.
I also found out that my dog enjoys flying. So whenever I am practicing landings or enjoying a quick solo tour of the city, Buddy is right there with me.
My first time landing my C172 Tailwheel aircraft was an adventure on its own.
We flew east an hour to take advantage of an isolated airport. I set up for the perfect landing, flaps down, perfect glide slope, but upon touch down, the tail of the plane wanted to dance.
The landing was very squirrely. I looked at my instructor very nervously as he said “go go”. After take off, I just flew the crosswind wondering how we would ever land the plane again. Wow.
We landed again and there was a gentleman waiting for us. He suggested that the best way to learn how to land a taildragger was on a dirt field. It just so happened that there was one a few miles north from where we were.
So we headed there to do 10 landings. I have never before landed in dirt but landing a taildragger in the dirt was nothing but pure joy.
First I couldn’t distinguish the field from the rest of the dirt around it. The windsock was brown from all the dirt it has been collected. After touchdown, you could see the chunks of dirt flying around, it almost felt like I was off roading but instead of being in a wrangler, I was moving at 60 mph in a 180hp Cessna 172. It was one of those moments in life where you truly feel alive.
I was able to learn how to land my plane and after that day, the adventures on my C172 started. Flying home from the dirt field over the Borrego mountains I felt like I had just been initiated in a cool adventure world. It felt like the doors to a new world, a new lifestyle, had just opened up.
Coming in to land on a paved field now was no issue. I was able to land smoothly and from that point on I felt comfortable on my aircraft.
After that flight, and the exciting landings, I gave my aircraft her name: The Dragon. Somehow I was blessed enough to get my hands in such a cool airplane but I needed to learn it. I needed to learn how to fly my dragon.
Many adventures follow this moment: Kern Valley, Los Angeles, Catalina Island, Borrego Sprints, Sedona, Page, the Grand Canyon, Vegas, and San Diego.
Cheers to all of you aviators!