I remember when I was around 13 years old. I had just visited the American Airlines museum in Dallas Fort Worth TX. There they had the MSFS4.0. I sat down, looked at all the gauges on the panel, and thought to myself. “Alright let’s get this baby off the ground!” But only then did I realize I had a problem. I had no idea what I was doing. I looked around thought maybe there had to be a gas pedal somewhere. Without luck, I was unable to get the plane off the ground that day.
A few months later, I remember walking down the isles of wal-mart looking at all the new computer games. And there right in front of me was MSFS5.1. Wow!! That is the same “game” I saw in the museum. So I ran back to my mom a begged for it. Of course, she said no. However, that didn’t stop me. I was able to mow lawns and earn enough money within a few weeks. I ran back to wal-mart picked it up and came right home to install. After installation, I was faced with the same puzzling problems. “How do I get this baby flying?” If any of you were with me back in the day of 5.1, you would know that it came with a HUGE manual teaching you the basic maneuvers of flight. There I learned about the throttle. “So that’s how they get those things in the air.” I ran back to the game and throttled up. “Hmm strange, why isn’t it moving? Ahhh maybe it’s the thing called PARKING BRAKE!!” So I released the parking brake and down the runway I went. Then I was faced with yet another problem. I was pressing up but the plane wasn’t going up. Odd, so I pressed down. Up we went!! Weird my game must be messed up I though. No bother though, when you are that young little things like that don’t bother you. I flew around for hours after that. Just flying in the air at full throttle with no particular place in mine (in part because I didn’t think you could actually go anywhere).
After many weeks of reading and figuring out the controls and how the airplane runs, I got to wonder what the game was like with a joystick. That’s how the fighter pilots fly right? So I got some money together, bought a cheap $10 joystick, and plugged it in. How weird it was to fly like this. It was hard at first but I got the hang of it. I began to learn the basic principals of flight, with my joystick and MSFS manual.
Years went by and I gathered all the MSFS up to the current FS2002. What a difference the years have brought to the sim. So many cool planes and new features. It was very neat. At about the time FS2002 came out (yea right after sept 11th). Real aviation became of interest to me. I began flying many new routes in flight sim and had gained a really descent knowledge about aviation and navigation. However, I had never been in a real plane. After some time my girlfriend took me to her uncle’s place in Denton TX. I was surprised to see a neighborhood runway and many southwest pilot mailboxes (actually shaped like planes). When we got to his house, I began to tell him that I wanted to take flying lessons and told him that I had never been in a real plane before. So he very quietly got up and said come here. So we walked outside to his garage/hanger and he opened the door. And there was an airplane (Rearwin). He said grab a strut and we wheeled it out to the street. He did a quick preflight and told me to get in. I was so excited I didn’t know what to do. As we taxied down the road, we came to the runway. He did a quick run-up and away we went. As he pulled up toward the end of the runway, he took of a few feet from the ground and let the plane accelerate in ground effect. I was at first wondering; “now why isn’t he pulling up more” then at the last second he pulled back hard on the stick and up we went. What a scary feeling that was being in an airplane for my first time. I have to mention that I am scared of heights and hate rollercoaster’s. So those first seconds were scary but neat at the same time. After that everything was good. Or so I thought. He then started telling me about a stall. I kind of knew what a stall was because I had read about them and simulated them in the sim so I was kind of uptight at first when he mentioned it. He slowed the plane down and pulled back kind of steep. I was waiting and waiting for the drop that seemed to never come. Then at the last minute, we dropped like a rock. I grabbed anything I could and im sure made a weird face. He recovered and laughed at me. But it was all fun. We flew around a while and he let me fly the plane for most of the time. After that one flight, I knew I had to do this again.
Months went by and I began to pester my parents about flying lessons. They kept telling me in another month we will be able to afford it. I kept hearing the same old story until finally my dad and I were able to make it down to Northwest Regional Airport to look at the flight program at MarcAir Aviation. By the beginning of March, I started taking my first lessons. Juggling between school and flight school was hard but was worth every minute of it. The first few flights I had in the C-172’s were very bumpy and unnerving for me. I began to wonder why I wanted to do this. After a few months of training though, I began to feel very comfortable in the airplane. In no time at all I did my first solo. It was the best feeling I have ever had. Being able to say I was able to fly an airplane all by myself was very neat.
After many months of training the check ride day came. I was very nervous and stayed up most of the night before studying. In the morning, I took my check ride with out any problems. The check ride was a lot easier than people had said they were. My examiner was a nice guy and the flight went perfectly. After I got my license, it was time for me to go to college. I had picked my college a few months before and was accepted into Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. I left for school in August of 2002.
Getting to school, I was able to start my instrument training. Instrument was very different from private. I had to learn all about the gauges and the parts of the 172 and how they worked. It wasn’t too much fun at first, but when you start learning it and retaining the information, it became fun really quick. Through most of my instrument training, I had only flown into the clouds once or twice. It is very hard to find IMC when you are actually looking for it. It wasn’t till the night before my check ride for instrument that I had actually realized how fun this career is. The cloud ceiling was around 1,000 ft and the tops were at about 3,900. My instructor and I climbed to 4,000 and what a view it was. The weather on the ground at Daytona was pretty crappy. Overcast no sky visible at all. When we got above the clouds all I saw was a smoky looking blanket of clouds below me, and a clear sky with the moon and stars visible. It was one of the highlights of my life so far. We did an ILS approach that night into DAB. At about 1,000 feet, we broke free of the clouds and ahead of us was the well-lit runway and all its glory. Again another highlight of my life that night.
The check ride came the next morning and went without a problem. Again, it seemed easier than people had told me it was. You always hear the bad about people failing and cruel examiners. Well I have yet to experience one examiner I did not like.
For now, I have over 100 hours in the Cessna 172 and plan to keep flying for the rest of my life. This February I plan to start my commercial rating and finally getting into the Piper Arrow. It should be a blast I am looking forward to every minute of it. After that comes my CFI and the fun begins from there. Who knew such an amazing fascination with planes could come from one great simulator. Microsoft Flight Simulator. And to this day I still have not found the gas pedal.