By Mona Malacane
Everyone loves and appreciates a thoughtful gift. When you put effort into choosing what the gift-receiver would truly enjoy, you’re giving someone something that they can cherish (hopefully) for many years to come. Perhaps this is why gift-giving is sometimes referred to as an art.
Being the ever-thoughtful couple that they are, Teresa and Nic recently decided to really embrace the challenge of giving a good gift. For Christmas last year they sought to gift memories rather than material items to their loved ones. “We had decided that this year for family and people that we were buying gifts for, we would do a bit more of buying experiences,” Teresa explained. “So for [Nic’s] parents, we bought them a paddle-boarding trip and we bought my god children passes to a nature preserve, things like that.” Little did she know that Nic had something very unique and special under the tree for her.
He had found a Groupon for a flying lesson at a local small airport. When she opened her present, she was a little confused and completely surprised. “I opened the card and had to read it twice and I was like … I’m going to fly a plane? …”
The answer was yes and on March 8th, the two drove up to Indy Sky Sports for the lesson. Because it was a flight lesson and not just a passenger ride, the flight instructor had to go through some specifics before they got up in the air – the ergonomics of the plane, the physics of flying, and some safety info. All pretty necessary stuff if you’re going to be gliding around above the ground in a plane that weighs a little more than 600 pounds soaking wet. And from takeoff to landing, Teresa was pretty much doing all of the flying with the instructor there for support. No really, Teresa literally taxied and lifted the plane into the air for takeoff, and centered the plane to the runway and brought it down to the ground for landing.
After takeoff when they had climbed to about a mile above ground, the instructor threw her a curveball. “When we got up to cruising
altitude, which was about 4700 feet, [the instructor] said, ‘one of the first things I like to do to instill a sense of confidence in my flight students is I tell them to cut the engines off …’ And I’m thinking to myself, well you’re in the plane too so you’re not going to tell me to just fall out of the sky.” With the engines off, the cabin was silent and for a few seconds they were just gliding through the air. And then the nose started to dip a little and things got a little dicey for a minute … But just as easily as the nose started to dip, it corrected and tilted up. “Essentially we were dolphin-ing through the air but there was no forward momentum other than what we picked up from flying up.”
The rest of the experience was equally as adrenaline-rushing and yet smoothly effortless. With a huge grin on her face, Teresa told me some of the amazing (and probably terrifying for the average person) tricks the instructor did with her like banking, 360s, and flying towards the sunset.
The instructor took over for some of more advanced tricks they tried, like the corkscrew rise. It is exactly like the name suggests, the plane was climbing at about 60 degrees in a spiral movement. Another advanced maneuver they tried was called astronaut training. “Basically what we did was we went straight up in the air with high acceleration and we were probably at about a 70 degree incline, so I felt like I was laying almost completely flat on my back … and when we got to the top of this ascension we dove straight down. It was like coming over a roller coaster.” Before the ascension, the instructor had handed Teresa a key chain and told her to throw it up in the air when she felt weightless to visually see the loss of gravity but she said that she didn’t need the key chain to feel it because she was already floating out of her seat.
Flying a small plane wasn’t something Teresa had really imagined herself doing before her birthday trip, and understandably so. Flying is kind of a rare and exceptional thing to do, usually reserved for professionals. “I had never thought that I would fly before, not because I didn’t think that I wouldn’t want to, but I just didn’t think it was an achievable thing.” Now that she has a taste for it? “I definitely want to fly again … I would say it’s probably not the last time I’m going to fly, it was really really cool.”
While she hadn’t given much thought to flying before March, T’s grandmother was actually a pilot in World War II. She flew both large and small cargo planes behind enemy lines and would drop supplies for soldiers on the ground. She said about her grandmother, “Growing up she used to always tell my grandfather, who was a paratroop ranger [during the war], that any monkey can jump out of a plane but it takes someone with real brains to fly one.” She sounds liked a real aerial Rosie the Riveter.