Today I got to fly a Piper Comanche from Midland Int'l airport to little Odessa Schlemeyer field (ODO). I met my instructor at the GA (General Aviation) part of MAF airport. And we did a quick pre-flight. Nearby were parked several Black Hawk helicopters, and right next to us a Navy training prop plane was doing some type of very extended pre-flight or ground test, or something.
PA-24. A late 60's/early 70's plane. Note Blackhawk helicopters in background!
The PA-24 is a pretty big 4-seater. It is a high-performance (>200 hp) and high-complexity plane (flaps, retractable landing gear, and variable-pitch propeller). We started the plane and called into several layers of ground traffic and air traffic control. I couldn't understand what they were saying, so Josh handled most of that. We were then cleared to taxi, which I did. The big Comanche was much, much easier to steer (with foot pedals) than the touchy Diamond 20 I normally fly. It was a pleasant plane. We approached our approved runway and stopped just short of it to do our "run-up", which are some tests before actually taking off. We sat there a little while, finicking with the magnetos -- it seemed like one cylinder was not firing correctly. Then the tower came on and told us there was a 737 waiting behind us!!! Sure enough, as I turned out onto the runway I saw a big blue, red and gold Southwest 737 right behind us! That was a thrill. Full throttle and we gained speed, pulled back on the elevator until it felt mushy, then the hush as we left the ground and took to the sky. Taking off feels weird to me, like we are climbing at a very steep rate or, rather, being lifted into the sky. Not long after taking off the tower told us to turn left to heading 2-3-0, and I complied, with full knowledge there was a 737 coming right after me! We headed off toward ODO and circled around the airport to get a landing into the wind. Josh controlled the throttle, propeller pitch, and flaps as I focused on the three directional controls -- that is, aiming toward the runway. 31-knot gusting crosswinds -- wow.
This is a big stinkin' plane!
After the flight I had a huge headache. We taxied to the plane's hangar and put it away with a neat power thing that looked kinda like a lawnmower with one big wheel. Then back to the airport main building (lounge?) to do some pre-solo ground school. I need my medical certificate, then I will be able to solo... soon. In the meantime, we will do some cross-country flying; first to Midland and then to Andrews? In a few weeks I want to fly the Diamond 20 down to Terlingua, check out my land, and fly around the National Park. That will be a big adventure!
So will my next adventure... I'll be flying to Dallas tomorrow on Southwest and flying a Cirrus back to Midland. Very exciting times.
Safe on the ground at ODO.