Sunday, June 10, 2007

Looping the Loop

The Boy was given an aerobatic flight for his birthday, and when we woke up to sun and blue skies yesterday, we hassled Ray, the pilot, mercilessly until he agreed to meet us at the airport. I pictured myself spending the afternoon lounging on the deck outside the airport café, watching Boy as he was put through the paces, glass of wine in hand, ready for resuscitation if he stumbled out of the plane weak kneed and white with fear.
Instead I found myself signing up to do a flight as well. And then the fear really began. Butterflies the size of parakeets flooded my stomach, and I felt my hands beginning to shake, as Will, our safety instructor, detailed what was about to happen. What had I got myself into? Waiting for the others to go first nearly killed me, but inevitably, there was no avoiding it. I too had to stand on the scales, and have my weight read out to the room.
With the worst over, I practically ran to the plane, squirming my way into the front seat of the Pitts Special, and donning authentic flight helmet and aviators. I whooped enthusiastically into the intercom as we took off and did a few preparatory banks and turns, pushing my lungs somewhere into the region of my knees.
And then…then the first flip upside down. When it suddenly dawned on me that, due to the confined nature of my seat, and the fact that most of the buckles were between my legs, the actual securing of the harness had been left up to me. Yes, someone had told me which bits clicked where and what to pull to tighten, and there had even been several good yanks on various sections to make sure they were on. But I was upside down. With that harness (and a flimsy bit of plastic canopy) between me and the deep blue sea.
At that point, I abruptly abandoned the ‘weeeeeeee!’ and instead gripped onto the harness for dear life. With something of a muffled ’meeuuuuuphh!’ noise . Until another thought struck (and yes, we were still upside down) what if there was some kind of quick release system and I accidentally pulled it? The ‘meeuuuuuuph!’ increased slightly in pitch and volume, as we flipped right side up again. But then…then the looping and rolling and plunging headfirst at the waves began, and with the security of centrifugal forces pushing comfortingly against me, I giggled and cackled like a kid on a sugar high.
I think Ray thought this might have indicated hysteria, rather than glee, but each time he asked if I was ok, and up for more, I gave the 'ok' signal with both hands (wrenching them away from the harness, to which they still appeared to be glued), and we zoomed into another 6G plummet.
Fear factor? Pure blood fizzing exhileration aplenty. A few seconds of absolute terror until I realised that I had, in fact, managed to put the harness on correctly.
Fun factor? Sky high.

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