Thursday, June 19, 2008

Learning New skills

America is truly a land of opportunities where one can fulfill his dreams. At least as long as one can make enough money to pay for them. In my case I am lucky to have a supportive wife-to-be who is helping me fulfill do several things which I would probably never have attempted in India.
One of the things, Roller Skating, an activity which I was interested in since my early childhood and had never learnt in India. Yes there are some facilities to learn Skating out there but they were either inaccessible or only for kids. Here I started learning roller skating about 8 weeks ago and I have been going to the classes off and on. But the first five weeks I was regular and made rapid progress. I can now skate straight at slow speed and forwards. I can turn, stop, run and walk on wheels. And after some more classes I am sure I will be able to skate backwards, reverse, jump, hop, skip etc all on wheels.
Another activity I took part in last weekend was flying. Can you believe it I actually co-piloted a small plane. Again thanks to Padma and her friend Chris I was able to do it. Padma spent the money and Chris, a certified commercial pilot taught me the basics of flying. Last Sunday morning was perhaps one of the most thrilling mornings of my life so far. I expected it to be a joy ride with Chris taking us in a small aircraft around Dallas area. But when I met Chris at the Addison Airport, he asked: "Who is going to fly first?". Padma replied: "He will" and pointed to me.
Then we went into the hanger and Chris started gave us a brief lecture on the various things to check before even getting into the air-craft. The fuel quality, wings, weights, rudders and lot more.
Then we got into the aircraft each wearing a headphone for communications. Seated in the small 4-seater aircraft Chris explained all complex instrumentations and levers in the cockpit and what they do and how we need to operate them. Once these things were done, Chris spoke into the radio with the air traffic control tower and obtained clearance to taxi and we were soon on the runway ready to take off. One more exchange of words on the radio and we got a green light to fly and in a matter of seconds we were off with Chris giving a constant commentary on what is happening and why he was doing what.
It was a great experience of sitting in the cockpit staring at so many instruments giving an array of measurements, each important for at least one aspect of the flight. We climbed higher and higher and attained an altitude of 2,000 ft, Chris said we will fly at this height and land at Sherman Municipal Airport and then fly back to Addison. Enroute Chris taught how to manouvere the metal bird to destination and how to read the in-flight GPS and set course. We also did a small 360 degree loop at 2,000 ft. It was a little scary but with Chris' reassuring us, we were comfortable.
Return was even more thrilling when Chris told me to manage the course till Addison, soon after taking off. He taught me how to maintain altitude, how to ascend, decend etc. The flight was in my control in mid-air, couple of times I lost altitude and had to fly up. I did panic and feel jittery when this happened but under the Chris' expert guidance I made it safely upto Addison. Chris took permission from the ATC tower and landed safely.
For this wonderful experience I must say thanks to three entities who made it possible. The first being Padma, then Chris and then America.

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