Once upon a time, a self-proclaimed Archaeology-Lifer got a job as a flight attendant. No one knows quite how it happened. Here's what happened next...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sitting in the Left Seat

In late March I took the first step in my journey towards becoming a Pilot. I had been driving past the Ottawa Flying Club for weeks. One day I finally went inside. It was actually quite nerve-wracking. I walked in the front door and up to the desk where there were about ten guys milling around. They all stopped and turned to look at me.

‘Um…,’ I said. Think of something cool. PLEASE say something cool. ‘I am interested in Flying Lessons?’ Not exactly cool, but to the point. Oh well.

Brief Silence.

Then a kind looking Man With a Mustache detached himself from the group, and suggested we have a seat in the lounge area. As it turned out, he was the Chief Flying Instructor. I instantly liked him. For some reason I had held this fear that people were going to hear me say “I want to be a pilot” and laugh. He didn’t laugh. He talked to me as though it was a realistic possibility. I was having trouble forming sentences more complex than “I want flying lessons”, I’m assuming because I was in shock and/or awe of what I had just done. My hands were shaking. I had made a pro-active move towards forever changing what I thought my future would be like.

The Man With the Mustache asked me pointed questions until we determined that what I specifically wanted was to get my Commercial Pilot’s license in order to pursue a new career, and that I didn’t want to go through the degree program. We chatted a little until I felt more at ease. I told him about working for The Airline, and how I’d taken to hanging out and watching planes take off and land. Once again I expected laughter, but he actually seemed encouraged by my enthusiasm.

‘Flying is something you have to be passionate about,’ he said. 'You need the enthusiasm to be ale to do it.’

We then took a walk outside to the airside of the club, where he showed me some of the aircraft the club uses. He opened the left-hand side door of a Cessna 150 and invited me to climb in. He gave me a brief overview of the plane, showed me some of the controls, and then we took a quick walk over to the club’s new hangar, before heading back inside to meet a few people, including the scheduler. At this point I realised that I needed to leave or else I was going to be very late for work. I apologised, and the Man With the Mustache gave me some leaflets and cards with information, and suggested that before I sign up for lessons, I take an introductory lesson, just to get the feel of things and see if I thought I really wanted to do it.

I left the flying club, got in my car and drove to work, where I spent four hours serving people food and absolutely buzzing with excited thoughts. I could do it. I could become a pilot! Somehow, having been to the club and talking to someone about it realistically, instead of just thinking about it as something I might do, it had become a reality.

I had expected to take more time to think about it, but to be honest I think I knew the second I sat in that little Cessna 150 that I wanted to do it. I was encouraged to see that the Cessna had significantly fewer controls and dials than a Boeing-737, which I was used to from working for The Airline. It made me feel rather less intimidated. And sitting on the left side seat was intoxicating. I remember one day in Initial Training for The Airline, one of the trainers went on a mini rant at us. She was talking about procedures for visiting the Flight Deck at the time.

‘Don’t you dare sit in the Pilot’s seats, she said. ‘Don’t even think about it. You haven’t earned it, you have no right to it whatsoever. Even if the Pilots offer, do not sit in that seat.’ Well… talk about putting the fear of God into someone, but for me at least, it stuck. And yet, there I was sitting in the left side seat of a real aircraft.

I went back the next day and booked my introductory flight. I knew already that I was going to take lessons, but I figured I may as well just do the introductory lesson so as to give myself an idea of what I was getting myself into.

It was scheduled for 5:00 after I finished working at The Restaurant on a Saturday. I had no idea how I was going to get through that day.

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