Last Saturday I had the privilege of doing the first part of a “Pinch Hitter’s Course” with a friend of mine’s wife. This type of instruction is for those who are not pilots but who fly frequently with family or friends who are pilots. They may not want to take lessons or earn their license, but they would like to learn to satisfy their own curiosity and do what needs to be done “in a pinch”. In many ways knowledge is power, or in this case knowledge is peace. Understanding the basics of the plane’s operation and systems gives a good bit of peace to these frequent fliers.
Melissa, my friend’s wife, has been flying with her husband but always experienced a good bit of anxiety. It’s not his flying, I’ve flown with him and he’s a very good pilot. He’s proficient, safe, and methodical. But as I talked with them both, it seemed that what she really needed was an instructor to talk her through the basics and give her the information and experience of seeing for herself what flying was all about.
I spent some time in the cockpit with her going over the basics of the instruments and the radios. We took off and the first thing I demonstrated was stability. A trimmed-out airplane is remarkably stable and when I removed my hands from the controls she seemed concerned for just a moment. Then I saw it register with her that the plane was doing just fine, flying along quite nicely. I then demonstrated how even if I push on the yoke, the plane will try to return to level flight (dynamic stability). And it did.
At that point I showed her straight and level flying and basic turns. That was the last time I flew the plane! She flew it for the remainder of the flight until we came back into the pattern for landing. It was exciting to see her go from being reluctant to touch the controls to holding straight and level and making turns to headings on her own!
The next day her husband sent me an email which said:
“We’ve created a monster. Melissa is actually excited to go up again and start phase 2 of her pinch hitter course. You are a great teacher and have the right level of patience to feed information at an appropriate rate. She’s definitely going up again (her words).”
That’s what it’s all about –sharing the gift of flight! I can’t wait to fly with Melissa again and see her grow more and more comfortable with flying. It is great to see how this ‘flying family’ can really share the joy of flying together.