Hokai, so this is me telling the story of Brian’s and my flying day trip to Chico now that I have told all seven of you about what it’s like flying in a tin can with wings and how I deal with the feelings of mortality that result from it (answer: not well).
We drove the short distance to the small airport in our town, went into a small locked office to get the keys to the plane (Brian’s so cool that someone trusts him with a key to this office…dunno how that happened), and then went out to the plane where I gracefully jammed myself into the ever-sweaty co-pilot’s seat and read while Brian preflighted. Same drill.
Everything was a-ok, so Brian got in, gave me the lovely safety briefing, I popped in a piece of gum, plugged in my ipod (Sara Bareilles to the max), and we were on our way. The trip there was about 45 minutes to an hour long and was rather uneventful for me. There was absolutely no turbulence to speak of, even when going over the Sutter Buttes (thankyouthankyou)! Brian said there was some sort of miscommunication with the air traffic control center where control was supposed to pass him off to Chico’s tower as we went on our merry way, and apparently this didn’t happen, and so when we reached Chico airspace, Brian had to awkwardly announce himself over the radio. Apparently it was embarrassing because it made Brian look bad, even though it wasn’t his fault. I tried to draw the undeserved negative attention away from him by cussing out the air traffic controllers over the radio for all to hear. Too bad it was all in my head. Silly airplane politics.
The landing was smooth into Chico airport. What wasn’t smooth was that the airport deli was closed and we had been planning to grab some lunch there before heading back home. This may not sound like a big deal to most folks, but it is to me, and by proxy it is to Brian. See, when I am well rested, fed, and watered, I look like this:
photo credit to Shady Grove
But when I am tired, hungry, and/or thirsty, I very rapidly turn into this:
We have learned this the hard way. Too many times. I had an apple, a granola bar, and water with me, so I was very much hoping that that would tide me over.
The other activity for the day in Chico was to visit the airport’s small indoor/outdoor flight museum. Now, I lost count of just how many damn airplane museums I have been dragged to over the years. Don’t get me wrong, airplanes are cool, and (to me) the space exhibits that sometimes accompany these museums are even cooler, but I have my limits. And when I am tired and hungry, those limits drop through the floor pretty quick.
What I find particularly hilarious is that Brian expects me to have a working memory of the different museums and what planes we saw in which museum. Observe:
Hey Lady, you remember that one big yellow turbo double engine supercool plane we saw at Big Joe’s Fly-By Museum on July 20 at about one in the afternoon about three years ago?
Hell, no. I don’t even remember ______ .
Well, that plane is here now! We get to see it again!
Again…for the first time.
Back in Chico, we (cautiously) started with the outdoor exhibit and I started on my granola bar. The outdoor exhibit had about a dozen planes in various states of disrepair. Here’s what I remember: one was old and Russian, several were homebuilt and extremely small and flimsy looking, one of those homebuilts was yellow. There was also a toy fighter plane that kids could play in and I wanted very badly to be able to fit into it, but I didn’t even get a chance to try because I was surrounded by potential witnesses.
While walking through the exhibit, Brian asked the docent dude if there was any food nearby. I think he could sense that my inner trantrum-y six year old was just inches from the surface at this point. The docent said there was a hamburger joint about a half mile down the road, so Brian and I decided to walk there even though it might make us a bit late getting home. About a quarter mile down the road, we decide to check our smartphones to make sure we’re indeed going in the right direction. Alas, gps said that we were still 1.6 miles away from meaty, bready goodness. At this point I began to lose control as I stomped after Brian heading back towards the airport again.
Brian still wanted to see the bloody indoor part to the museum, so I went to town on my apple and took a moment to sit quietly outside, marinating in my rage, for fear that I might rip Brian’s head off if I didn’t. Once the apple started to digest, I pasted on a smile and joined Brian inside the museum. I actually found a wall with signed pictures from lots of awesome astronauts, so I had a little moment of joy looking at Jack Swigert’s and Ken Mattingly’s John Hancocks. Way cool.
After that, Brian and I made our way back to the winged tin can for our return journey. I had woken up that morning already feeling like I was coming down with something, and at this point in the day I could feel a migraine coming on from lack of foodage and liquid. While Brian preflighted, I downed some water with pain pills and chowed down on some emergency cliff bars Brian had on hand.
In times like these, I really rely on music to manipulate my mood, and right then I needed some major calming action, so I turned on some Jack Johnson and tried to sleep.
Midway through the flight I wasn’t feeling too bad, so when Brian asked if I would like to try taking the controls for the first time ever, I said sure. Man, was that ever weird and terrifying. I turned the yolk clockwise about an inch or so, and the plane began to slowly turn after a several second delay, which was very unnerving. After a few minutes as pilot, my mounting anxiety got the better of me and I turned the controls back over. Then I initiated a conversation about what might happen if Brian were to fall unconscious mid-flight, because now we need to plan for every worst case scenario. We decided that I would get on the radio and shout that I was in trouble and needed a fighter jet escort, mayday, mayday, breaker, breaker, over!! And then my anxiety got to dangerous levels just thinking about it, so we changed the subject.
Later on in the flight, I did my awesome job of pointing out another aircraft that was actually pretty close to us by airplane flight standards. While Brian was trying to maneuver in such a way that would keep us alive, I started reciting lines from Top Gun about how we should take advantage of this opportunity to communicate…you know, the bird? We should be inverted! I yelled at Brian. I don’t think he heard me.
The last cool thing about the trip was that Brian heard over the radio that we were passing an area where people were actively sky diving at the time. I kept watching for either the diving plane or for open parachutes, and just as we were about to land at our home airport, I saw two open parachutes way back behind us. I was so excited about this that I practically had to clamp down on my mouth to keep from interfering from Brian trying to land the plane. The second we touched down I dutifully tapped his shoulder and blurted, I saw two jumpers! Back there! But you were landing! You missed it!
Hungry, Hungry Melissa Crisis averted, as we hauled ass to In N Out as soon as we left the airport. Success!