“It’s just like driving a bulldozer.”
Well, I’m glad I just got my bulldozer’s license renewed.
Charlotteville pilot Steve Sargeant invited me and my photographer buddy, Mike, on a sightseeing trip above the city. The plane ride was planned. My copiloting was not.
“You’re going to taxi us to the runway,” he told me. That’s when he mentioned taxiing the plane was like driving a bulldozer. Left means right. Right means left. There’s no steering with your hands. It’s all done with your feet.
And then he told me I’d be in charge of take up.
“Pull this back, and as you’re pulling back, push this up to 25. Then stop. Then once you get to 25, push it all the way up. And keep pulling back.”
There was no practice. This was in real time.
If you question the success – I’m sitting here, writing this today.
The views over Charlotetsville are quite amazing. Traveling the skies is the easiest way to make your way from the northern part of Albemarle County to Charlottesville – a much better alternative than Route 29. You still see how majestic Monticello is, even from 2,500 feet above. An empty Scott Stadium is almost haunting. And the airport runway does not look nearly as long as it should be.
The larger story that allowed me a brief sightseeing trip was a feature on an organization that Sargeant volunteers with called Angel Flight.
This particular division of Angel Flight is based in Philadelphia. Its purpose is to transport people who need medical care but can’t fly commercially from one location to another. The pilots donate their time, their planes and their fuel to make it all possible.
I had the privilege to meet an Angel Flight patient and his wife. Unfortunately, this was the last trip the patient would make, as he was recently told doctors couldn’t do anything else for his leukemia treatment.
But the emotional way he and his wife spoke about the Angel Flight program and its pilots lets you know what kind of impact such a service makes. Someone else is on your side. An angel or two, if you will.
Sargeant showed the same hospitality taking Mike and me for a ride. We paid for it, though. Mike nearly collapsed on the tarmac once we stepped out of the plane. I stood in place for a few minutes. I have no problems flying in commercial planes, but a six-seater was a new experience.
But the disorientation was more than worth meeting the Angel Flight pilots and patients. A program that really does feature some angels right here on earth.
And, as an additional benefit, I can now add bulldozer operator to my résumé skills.