Thursday, March 29, 2012

Smells like Sunshine

Its been a while since I flew an actual airplane instead of a simulator. Three weeks to be precise. Today the stream of storms broke a little while and I was able to carve an hour out of my work day to go down to the flight club and fly... just for half an hour but it was better than nothing.  

I fly because it frees my mind from the tyranny of petty things. At this point in my life and career there are many petty and not so petty things on my mind. However, when I walked out to the plane to start my preflight process, my mind was free from the concerns of the world and I was wholly present in the moment of preparing for flight. It felt like forever since I've done a preflight on this plane, old 93K, but today I smoothly went through the process. Like a pro. Like someone who has logged hundreds of hours of flight time. Everything clicked. It was nice.

The first thing I notice when I open the door to the plane is the smell. I don't know if all planes have a smell but this one does. A good smell. A smell that I associate with hours of learning, challenge, adventure, frustration, ultimately success and joy in this particular cockpit. I started to wonder as I plugged in my headset and inspected the cockpit.. How can I describe this smell? What does it smell like?

As I ran my fingers along the seat rails and checked for loose items in the cockpit I saw some broken pieces of ancient, sunburned plastic. They had fallen from the antenna that is no longer used that sits at the top of the windscreen. I remember when that antenna first started to shatter... I guess it was shattering more. But how to describe the smell?

I verified fuel was on both, set the trim wheel for takeoff and tested the alternate static. Hmmm... that smell. It smells of fabric seats and ancient plastic, I thought. I checked the breakers, removed the control lock, turned on the beacon, flipped on the master, set the flaps to full, saw the fuel gauges read full and the beacon was working. Master off.

I went outside and did the rest of the preflight inspection. I opened the door again. That smell again. It smells a little of avgas, I thought, but that's not all. At the end of a flight there's always the hot metal smell of the engine too. But there was something else missing... then it hit me.

The plane smells like hours and hours of sunshine. 

Sitting out on the ramp, up in the air at 1100 ft in the pattern or 7500 feet on a VFR flight. It smells like sunshine. I'd better not tell my CFI this one. He already thinks I'm crazy about flying... He's right! But I'll share this smell with you. The little Cessna 172N that I've spent most of my flying career to date in smells like many things, fabric and plastic and avgas and hot metal, but most of all, it smells like sunshine. If you ever wondered what sunshine smells like, come fly with me!

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