Assignment: Texas with Russell A. Graves
By Russell A. Graves
Jul 9, 2015
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 ďLetís go outside and weíll teach you to do a pre-flight check and go up today,Ē said Lawrence Lattimer, flight instructor from Vernon, Texas.  I stood there sort of dumfounded and not knowing exactly how to respond.

ďIím just here to figure out a training schedule and get myself on track,Ē I explain.  ďI havenít had any lessons yet.  I just want to know how to get started.Ē

 ďI AM showing you how to get started,Ē Lawrence smiled.  ďLetís go outside.Ē

At that point I suppose I only had two choices.  I could have said no, walked away, and came back when I was ready.

But thatís not meÖ   I chose adventure.

We sauntered across the tarmac towards a Cessna 172 plane and within five minutes of arriving, I am walking around the plane learning how to look for anomalies that may affect flight and ultimately, my safety.  Soon, Iím sitting in the left seat of the cockpit, the seat buckled and pulled tight, and slowly taxiing the plane while Lawrence patiently gives me instructions from the seat next to me.

I donít think I am unlike a lot of people when I say that airplanes are cool.  Iíve always loved to fly.  Iíve been on countless commercial flights and have logged hundreds of hours as a passenger in small fixed wing aircraft and helicopters as I leaned out windows in order to take a photo from a perspective you donít see everyday.

So for the past couple of years, Iíve kicked around the notion of learning to fly and on a late June afternoon, I sit behind the wheel of a small plane with Lawrence guiding me every step of the way.

We taxi across the connectors and make a final right hand turn and face the nose of the plane down the runway and into the wind.  Applying throttle to the craft, it speeds headlong down the runway.  Ready or not, Iím about to fly.

ďPull back,Ē Lawrence advises, ďPull backÖĒ

I head his instructions and pull on the wheel.  Like magic, the nose of the plane angles towards the heavens.  With a bit more speed, physics takes over as the air rushes faster over the wing than below it and creates lift.

We escape the ground and climb into the air on a clear blue afternoon.  For half an hour we fly over the Red River - slipping back and forth over the state line between Texas and Oklahoma.   The river runs fat with water and the fields are as green as Iíve seen them.  Seeing the earth from 1,500 above it, the symbiotic relationship between man and nature is inspiring.

Too soon after we took off we are landing.  The whole time we are flying, Lawrence is instructing me on how to control the plane.  He is a good teacher as everything he explains, I understand.  With his help, we sit the plane softly back on the runway and taxi it back to where we started.

 As soon as we park, Iím ready to go again.