Date #16: Into the Wild Blue Yonder…

It took me some time to complete this date! I was supposed to do it in November, but the company called me to reschedule for maintenance reasons. I scheduled for a date near Christmas, but then found out that I’d have 12 people at my house for Christmas and had to re-work that schedule too. Finally, I was able to make a day work! Please note…my pictures of this date are few and not great…my apologies!

I was an Air Traffic Controller in the Air Force (Tower). While I was in, I had opportunities to go up in a variety of military, law enforcement and customs aircraft, during slow times on my work shifts. Sometimes, the pilots would ask if I wanted to take the controls. I typically would answer, “no thank you”. So, when I saw a deal on-line for an introductory flight lesson, I thought it would be good for me to say yes to the controls this time.

I drove 2 hours and arrived at Falcon Field in Mesa, AZ for my flight. I filled out the liability waivers, etc and was ready to go! We walked out to the plane, which was a Piper Cherokee type aircraft. We walked through the checklist outside the plane, then we hopped into the plane, where the checklistery continued. I soon learned that this wouldn’t be a flight lesson where I would be taking controls. It was meant to be an orientation flight for people to go up and see if they were interested in pursuing flight lessons.

Learning this was a little disappointing because I’ve been up on flights in tiny aircraft. When I was a controller, I went up on little fun flights with U.S. Customs in their Cessnas and their Black Hawk helicopters. I went up with Miami Metro Police on their night flights. Flying in a tiny plane wasn’t new for me. I decided to enjoy the flight because the weather was perfect for it and the scenery was beautiful. The instructor was very nice and knowledgeable. My absolute favorite part of the flight was listening to the air traffic control chatter.

Hearing the controllers had me doing a lot of reminiscing about my days in the control tower. It was tough. I was 18, in the military and one of the only females. Homestead had one other female, but I rarely saw her. It was really hard for me to find a good mentor in those days and it was a tough environment. But eventually, I was fortunate enough to be put on an amazing crew and learned so much.

I remember the adrenaline rush of busy days with 16 F-16s in the control pattern, shared with slower aircraft. They’re all fighting for the same 5 mile radius of airspace and you have to know where everyone is and tell them who goes first. You talk so fast, with barely a breath and mostly instinct because there’s no time to think, making traffic calls and clearing people for requests, moving people around to fit them in without killing them…I would finish shifts like that and feel pumped, but would also want silence for an hour or so. That job was a tough and amazing experience. Hearing the chatter of this date flight brought back so many feelings and memories from those days.

We finished the flight, which was nice, scenic and uneventful. I enjoyed it. In the end, I wasn’t terribly disappointed that it wasn’t a lesson because I learned that I still have no desire to pilot a plane. 😂 I ended my day in Mesa with more nostalgia. I connected with a friend from my Air Force days who I hadn’t seen for 15 years or more. She and I met in Basic Training, when we were 18. She was also a controller, and still is in the Phoenix area. I miss her. We had a great visit and it was a good way to end my day that ended up being a date of nostalgia.

16 dates down, 34 to go!

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