Change is inevitable. It can come suddenly and unexpectedly. It can gnaw at you for weeks or months and just be an uncomfortable feeling where you just know that you need to make a change. It’s not something most of us enjoy or even like to go through normally. Making a change isn’t ever easy and you might not be certain it’s the right thing to do, but if it lingers long enough and makes you uncomfortable enough, then the right push can move you in the direction you really need to go.
I had a desire to transition to a controlled towered airport for more experience. I love my non-towered airport and it’s very sentimental to me. It was nagging at me for weeks though to check out some other places to fly. I really wanted to see what it might be like where you have to talk to air traffic control and you can fly with just about every size airplane around. After I soloed, which is probably a strange time to make a change, I decided to check out some other schools in the area and see what it might be like at other airports. I scheduled a couple of flights so that I could experience a control towered airport.
I was surprisingly calm for my first flight at a strange airport. I would’ve thought I’d be nervous or anxious, but I wasn’t at all. It was just like I was meant to be there and nothing seemed unusual or out of the ordinary. I checked in, met the instructor for some preflight information and we headed out to the plane.
I flew out of Concord (JQF), a 7500 foot runway with not only single engine planes but jets, helicopters and all sorts of trainers from one end to the other. It put a smile on my face just to see all of those planes lined up down the long stretch we traveled to get to the North ramp where the plane was resting. It was an early, clear, cool Saturday morning and the crispness in the air shot through me like electricity through a wire. I was excited and thrilled for an opportunity to try something completely different.
I’m flying a Cessna 172 today and although I’ve been a passenger in one; I haven’t flown one since my first discovery flight back at the end of May when I didn’t even know it had rudder peddles. I’m going through preflight with a little help today as things are a bit different from the Cherokee that I normally fly. It takes me a little longer but I want to be thorough and make sure I understand and remember where everything is for the next time I fly in one.
I had to get out a small ladder to check the gas in this top wing plane. The gas cap is on the top of the wing and you can’t reach it any other way. This is definitely different from what I’m used to doing. This plane has electric flaps and not manual. The trim is on the control panel and not on the ceiling. All the instruments are the same with the exception of a Garmin GPS in it.
Once we finished preflight. The instructor went over the frequencies. We have to listen to ATIS for weather information so that we can tell control that we have the current weather prior to departure. Here they have Ground Control and ATC. I have to request permission to taxi and then again to depart. So, he tells me how to request permission to taxi and I repeat it back to him before I make contact on the radio. It’s not difficult but I do have to focus. “Concord Ground, this is Cessna 3, 8, niner, niner Quebec, on the North ramp with information Zulu, requesting to taxi for a VFR departure to the Northeast.” Ground comes back with a whole lot of information and I respond with “Cessna 3, 8, niner, niner Quebec, cleared to taxi to 2 zero.”
Now, to follow the taxi way signs. I’ve never done that before, this will be good to see as I’ve only studied it in the books. As I follow the yellow taxiway line, I see the rectangular signs for the runways 20 and 2 with arrows pointing to the right and left. I follow the arrow for 20 and continue down the taxiway. Wow, this seems like a really long way to taxi! On a 7500 foot runway it seems like we’re crawling as we make our way to the runway.
Once there, I stop and do my runup to check everything prior to takeoff. When I’m done, it’s time to request permission from the tower to depart. We change frequencies to the tower and again the instructor gives me directions on what to say to request departure. “Concord Tower, this is Cessna 3, 8, niner, niner, Quebec holding short of runway 2 zero, ready for VFR departure to the Northeast.” “Cessna 3, 8, niner, niner, Quebec, you are cleared for northeast departure on runway 2 zero, steer clear of Class Bravo airspace, have a good day.” “Cleared for takeoff on runway 2 zero, 8, niner, niner Quebec.”
I pull on to the runway and realize it seems huge compared to what I’ve been taking off on; full throttle, rotation speed obtained, pull back on the yoke and we are airborne. It’s an amazing view from up here as always! As we turn east, I can see the Concord Speedway just in front of me. It’s beautiful out and I know it’s going to be a great flight today.
Sometimes, you don’t know if making a change is the right thing to do at first, but I had a great lesson today and I never felt uncomfortable in the new plane or at this airport. I have another lesson scheduled to go with a different instructor in a few days. I think taking it slowly and riding with a couple of different instructors is a good thing to do before I make a final decision about whether or not I want to move my training. It’s exciting to be somewhere new and not knowing exactly what to expect. At times like this, I feel like it’s when I’m learning and spreading my wings a bit more. I want to be a great pilot someday and I think that part of that is becoming comfortable in different situations and experiences. I also think this will help me be a safer pilot too. So, change can be a good thing if you choose to embrace it rather than fight against it. You’ll never know if it’s the right thing to do unless you step out of your comfort zone and try. Today I choose change to see where it might take me because I love an adventure.