Adrenaline Adventures: Fly an Airplane with Performance Flight, West Harrison
Why wait for takeoff when you can do the work yourself? Flight lessons from Performance Flight’s expert team gives New Yorkers the easy commute option of their dreams.
“You ready to take off?” asked our instructor, John, a commercial pilot with thousands of hours of flight time under his belt. I had none. So how was I taking off? The closest I had been to a pilot’s seat was when the captain of a Pan Am jet I flew in 20 years ago gave me a five-second “tour” of the cockpit. But there was no turning back. We were on the freaking runway. I had a few things going for me, though. I was sitting in a $700,000 Cirrus airplane stunningly outfitted with two state-of-the-art Garmin computer screens right out of the Starship Enterprise. On them were maps of the airport and surrounding area, and lots of colorful numbers and shapes I didn’t quite get (“Keep the purple arrow next to the white arrow”—or something like that—John told me. Just like the world’s best video game, I thought). Above me, John explained, was a parachute. “You mean for each of us?” I asked. “No, for the plane.” That’s right, if anything went wrong, the plane would gently float to the ground. Finally, I had John and his calming British accent. “Put your right hand here,” he explained, pointing to a handle in the middle of the plane, “and start to give it more power.” The plane rolled forward. “Get it to 60 percent.” I did as told, my left hand on the steering stick, air traffic control crackling in my headphones. “Now, get it up to a hundred percent.” And then it happened. Just like every Boeing 747 I had ever ridden, we had liftoff—rising into the sky as the ground miniaturized below. “Wow. Simply wow!” I said. Full disclosure: John had a parallel setup to me, à la a driver’s ed car, so he did some (okay, most) of the work. And once in flight, we turned much of the work over to the autopilot—but such is life for a pilot these days, and hey, at least you get to look out the window for a bit and take in the County from above. Around 20 minutes later, we landed in Poughkeepsie. “That was pretty amazing,” I said to myself. But darned if I didn’t forget to start a sentence with, “This is your captain speaking.” Well, there was always the flight back.
We left saying: “That’s right, I’m telling everyone I know I just flew an airplane.”
Bring a friend: For training, not so much, but you’ll have plenty of time to fly them around.
Fear factor: High. Then low. The owner of the company actually got over his fear of flying by training to be a pilot.
Just do it: performanceflight.com, (914) 397-1444