Oh, how it feels to grab a plane by its control wheel and see the world through a bird’s-eye view!by Anita Zaror
I’ve had a fascination with airplanes, airports, and everything wings-related since I was little, probably because they are all related to traveling. One time I took a gliding class over the rising thermal currents along the Chilean Andes Mountains; another time, a paragliding course to fly over the Pamukkale travertines in Turkey; and on several occasions I have had the chance to fly in small airplanes and helicopters, all experiences I have absolutely loved. But I recently flew a single-engine Piper Warrior II aircraft on my own in Thailand (well, with a lot of help) … and that was something else!
The sound of the engine (that sound you secretly pray you won’t stop hearing because, if you did, it would mean you would have to glide down); the comforting voice of your copilot (a certified instructor) through the headset, which reminds you you’re not alone; passing a bird flying in the opposite direction and realizing that, when you look down, you see what it sees; being challenged by losing sight of the runway and learning that a pilot should always keep track of it … I can list countless thoughts, sensations, and views you will experience when taking a flying class. But nothing will truly give you an accurate idea of what it feels like to take a plane by its control wheel—you need to try it yourself to understand the ecstasy behind it.
I joined this adventure on a sunny day with ThaiWOA Flying Club (●083 602 3557; www.wingsoverasia.com; www.facebook.com/thaiwoa; firstname.lastname@example.org) at the Ocean Air Park in Samut Sakorn. ThaiWOA is not a flying school, but rather a private club where wings lovers pay a monthly membership of THB 1,500 to make use of the facilities. The one-hour pilot fun-flying course offered by the club at THB 8,000 includes a 20-minute presentation about fun-flying and a 10-minute pre-flight introduction that will help you to understand the basics of the aircraft you will fly. The actual fun-flying class lasts 20 minutes, which doesn’t sound like a lot but, trust me, it’s more than enough considering the psychological and emotional effort required. A 10-minute after-flight briefing and insurance are also included. Don’t worry because it really feels safe at all times, but beware: after you’ve taken this course, you might be hooked forever. The good news is that for around THB 350,000 you can take a 60-hour course to get your own pilot’s license in Thailand (around the same price it would cost in the U.S.).
In 1903 the Wright brothers dreamt of flying … and thanks to them, today people like you and me can fulfill this same dream as well.