By Amy Lowe
When I first learned I would be taking on a new client I was excited to dive right in and learn everything I could about them. As an Association Manager, we learn about new industries all the time, it’s interesting and varied, and generally, a lot of fun.
The first thing I saw was the SAAA logo, which read, ‘build fly & enjoy’. Ohh, I thought. How cute, they build model planes!
Obviously, I was wrong.
As some of you know by now, I was quietly (or maybe not so quietly) horrified when I eventually learned that these weren’t model planes, they were life size. I had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that there were people crazy enough to ‘build’ their own aircraft, let alone to ‘fly’ them.
But then I started talking to members, and I listened to their stories, and I heard the enthusiasm with which they recounted them. I realized that kind of enthusiasm and passion is hard to come by. Surely you can’t get that from simply flying a plane?
So, when SAAA National Council Member, Gary Weeks invited my colleague Annie and I to a barbeque get together, including a fly, with SAAA Chapters 1 and 11 in Wedderburn, we agreed to go. Although I do have to admit we were both more than a little nervous from the moment we accepted. To be honest, the lead up was a few uncomfortable weeks, with a lot of second guessing ourselves. We were, for the first time ever, wishing for bad weather, and wondering if we really should be doing something that felt so… completely unnatural. Humans weren’t built for flying.
John Smith, SAAA Treasurer, who instigated the move to get us in the air, in his ever-helpful way, sent us an email with a link to a video of John flying his own plane, which just happened to be the same as Gary’s – a Lancair Legacy. John’s goal was to show us a little of what to expect.
GARY WEEKS’ LANCAIR LEGACY
As we watched the video the blood drained from our faces. We watched John doing rolls and loops, and flying UP SIDE DOWN!
The only thing that kept us going was the fact that Gary is a Qantas pilot. That fact, and that fact alone, is what stopped us from completely backing down and turning into the chickens we are. Eggs anyone?
The day came quickly and we tried to stifle our nerves on the drive to the airfield. There were quite a few people there, but I can’t tell you most of their names. My brain was far too occupied trying to keep myself from running far away in the opposite direction.
We were shown Gary’s plane, and it was small. Very small. Gary briefed us on what to expect, how to get in and out, where to step on the wing, and all the usual safety stuff. I forced myself to concentrate. This was serious.
Gary asked who wanted to go first, and I answered too quickly. “I’ll go.” There was no hesitation. I just wanted to get this out of the way. I could then say I’d done it, I’d experienced flight in a little bitty plane, and I would never have to do it again.
Climbing into this little aeroplane is an experience all its own. While climbing onto the wing, I wished for slightly longer legs, and once I was in, I wished for slightly shorter ones. Once I was strapped in tight and the head set on, I realized this was it. There was no turning back.
THE CLIMB IN
Too quickly we were in the air and I firmly decided, through some very strict self-talk, that the best thing to do is settle in and enjoy the ride. So, I did. The view was amazing and I managed to get a few snaps as we went. Pretty soon I even forgot I was so high up in the air.
Gary asked me if I wanted to feel a little roll. Sure. Why not? I’ve come this far. And over we went! Amazingly, it was better than I thought and I didn’t feel like losing my breakfast. Which is odd, seeing as I can’t even travel on the Manly ferry. After a few more rolls I was hooked and wanted to go again and again. What an odd sensation to look up and see the ground! But I liked it. It was kind of like being on a roller coaster, only better, and higher.
THE WOLLONGONG COASTLINE
SAAA member Antony Prehn, another proud Legacy owner and builder, took his plane up as well and I received a brief introduction to the world of formation flying. Seeing another plane fly so close to you is exciting.
Annie enjoyed her flight as much as I did and we both spent the rest of the afternoon wearing slightly silly grins on our faces. What a buzz!
While the guys cooked up some snags we got to see the Garmin Australia Rep taking some of the new Garmin navigational equipment through its paces. We also checked out some of the other member planes as well as listen to some build stories. It’s quite a commitment to build a plane, and I was impressed. Some of you go to such great lengths.
We had an amazing day and our sincere thanks to all the members who were there, particularly Gary for introducing us to flight.
I’m happy to say I was wrong about so many things. I get it now. I understand why you love to fly. I understand your enthusiasm, and your passion.
I enjoyed it so much that when I was asked to fly in another member plane to Narromine for AirVenture I jumped at the chance. No nerves this time, just pure excitement. But that is another story…
Of course, I still think you are all a little bit crazy, but it’s the kind of crazy I’d be proud to be.