It’s a magnificent day at the Omni Aviation Complex. Blue skies, a few straggling clouds, and one Cessna careening toward runway 20…
Flaps three in what must be a ten-knot crosswind, so I’m practically flying out the side window. I’m lining up for what looks like a perfect approach… I adjust the yoke to the right just a tad when a gust hits. My indomitable instructor stiffens in his seat as I plummet toward the runway cocked to one side with the centerline drifting away. A few hundred meters ahead, the new highway construction looms ominously over the other end of the runway like a concrete wall.
For a brief instant, it occurs to me that this does not fall within the range of experience of your average college junior.
Flashback. I’m three years old, watching Top Gun for the umpteenth time in my parents’ bedroom. Dad watches lazily as I sway to Kenny Loggins’ immortal lyrics, slowly moving to the edge of the bed. Before Dad can lunge forward to grab me (you’ll be surprised at the amount of lunging he had to do when I was a toddler, it’s probably why he’s so agile in the cockpit…), I lose my balance and topple over the side of the bed. He picks me up, checks me for bruises, and then calmly goes to the bathroom.
Ten years later, I find out that he was laughing his head off in there. If you had told him that sixteen short years later, that same doofus would be landing in ten-knot crosswinds, his response would be eminently predictable.
So here I am, with my life flashing before my eyes as I careen towards runway 20. I can just imagine the headlines now: College Junior Crashes on Training Flight, Female Ateneans Inconsolable.
Nah. I nudge the rudder just enough to get back over the centerline, chop the power, and haul baaaack on the yoke. Two interminable seconds pass as Daniel Bernoulli and Sir Isaac Newton wrangle over my fate, and then the main gear kisses the runway with a barely audible *chfirp* My hand is already moving on the flap lever. Sir D’s murmur of approval is lost in the roar of the Lycoming as I add full power, but his smile says it all. I make the mistake of looking outside and see the highway construction coming at me at 40… 50… 60 knots! Airspeed! I fire off two quick prayers as I rotate, one to God and one to Clyde Cessna as the little 152 hops cheerfully off the runway and makes for the clouds. Seconds later, the offending construction site passes harmlessly below. If only my classmates could see me now! As the flaps come up, I key the mike and call the tower.
“1051 now airborne!”