In October it was skydiving and in December it was aerobatics.
When we got to Jandakot airport I was slightly uneasy. Not because of the massive challenge I was about to undertake, but because of the smell that assaulted my nostrils. It smelt like, no actually it stunk, like cattle. Where was I? What had I gotten myself into? I had visions of an aerobatic course made up of hay bales (obviously stacked extremely high) and livestock that were possibly wearing rocket packs. Thankfully that wasn’t to be.
As we entered the flying school we found ourselves not in a farmhouse, but in a slick reception area that featured a sign saying, among other things “shit happens.” This is perhaps not as comforting as they may have hoped it would be. Nevertheless, I checked in and sat down to wait my turn. Almost immediately a young trainee bustled over offering us drinks (non-alcoholic of course) which I declined. Not only because I have a bladder the size of a walnut but also because I didn’t dare put anything else into my body. I hadn’t even had my usual fruit salad for breakfast. Just a couple of dry pieces of toast, so convinced was I that I may very well throw up.
After what seemed like seconds later a man appeared before me wearing the most well-kept uniform I think I have ever seen. Not only was his crisp white shirt immaculately ironed but he had a perfect crease ironed into his camel coloured trousers too. My high school principal would have been very impressed. He introduced himself as Shaun and he was my flying instructor. Just as with Tom from my skydiving adventure, I was very impressed with this pairing too.
He led us out onto the tarmac where the cute little black and blue stunt plane was waiting. I posed for a few obligatory photos with the plane and my parents before bidding them farewell. As they walked away from me I felt a split second of separation anxiety I don’t remember feeling since Mum dropped me off for my first day at Little Citizens kindergarten when I was five (although this time I did not standby the door crying for an hour). It was official. I was nervous. Very, very nervous!
Getting into the plane was interesting. I am no mountain goat so, with one person lifting me from underneath and Shaun hoisting me from above it took a little while to get up onto the wing and step down (a surprisingly long way down) into the cockpit and onto my seat. Eventually I got there and Shaun strapped me in. It was finally time to take off… “Gulp.”
As we began to taxi down the runway I noticed that the windscreen had yet to be closed. I panicked slightly as I had a flashback to how difficult it was to breathe when I began to freefall during my skydive. Would it be open the whole time? As if sensing my panic Shaun finally closed the windscreen and immediately the temperature inside the plane rose by about 50°C. Or at least that’s what it felt like.
The engine went to full throttle and we were off. We were climbing and climbing and climbing. The plane jumped about and I thought to myself, “if it’s this bumpy now, it’s going to be terrible when we actually start doing tricks”. But by the time we reached our maximum height (5,500 feet) over Cockburn Sound the turbulence had stopped.
Shaun asked, “Would you like to have a go controlling the plane?” I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. “Hell no!” I said. What if I had hit one of the flying cows?
He explained that, if, at any time I felt it was too much I could tell him to stop (yeah right. As if I was going to do that) and asked if I was ready. I told him I was. The plane began to roll. And I saw the beautiful water of Cockburn Sound suddenly appear above me before being replaced a second later by the clear blue sky once again. Then we did something that felt like we were pointing directly upwards and all I could see was sky and the opposite, where all I could see was water. We carried on rolling, diving and looping for about 10 minutes. The whole time I was laughing my head off and annoyingly I’m sure, saying “oh my goodness” over and over again. The movements were surprisingly gentle.
At one point during a slower roll I felt my bottom completely part company with the seat. I felt like I was floating in the air. Thank goodness I was strapped in. During another trick I went to wipe my ever-running nose but when I went to lift my hand to my face I couldn’t lift my arm no matter how hard I tried. The G forces had cemented it to my lap. It was a very odd feeling.
As we made our way back to solid ground, I realised that whoever decided that men cannot multitask had obviously never met Shaun. The whole time he was receiving information and instructions from the control tower, flying a plane as well as doing tricks, doing constant checks and having a conversation with me through a headset. And all the while remaining cool, calm and collected. It was very impressive!
It was extreme fun. I have now gotten over my fear of being upside down and if I didn’t have a real taste for adrenaline after doing my skydive, I definitely do now!
I went on a stunt flight and I didn’t even throw up! I wonder what I should do next…