I gripped the yoke of the airplane tightly and fixed my gaze on the closest end of runway 14 at Portage North Aerodrome. My eyes darting subconsciously through the pattern I was trained to look through - runway, altitude, RPMs, airspeed… repeat. My left hand seems to have a mind of its own as it anticipates every move the plane will make fighting to keep the plane straight and level. I don’t think, I just do. Jaw clenching as I feel the Cessna rise upward in a updraft my right hand automatically fingers back on the throttle killing some power trying to make gravity do it's job a little bit faster. I glance across the dash of the Cessna once again, making sure my flaps were at 30 degrees and my carburetor heat was on.
I shift slightly in my seat and notice that my shirt is drenched in sweat. I have an itch on my head but I can't free any hands to get rid of it. My focus is on landing this plane successfully. My ever critical instructor sit's in the right hand seat stretching and shifting his weight ready to take control at any moment. He's new at instructing. He's nervous and I can tell, but I've landed this plane a lot and I know I can land it safely. There are many many rules to landing a plane but the most important is: if you ever feel that you can't land the plane safely, go around. Which means if you know you won't make it apply full power, pull up, and try to land again. It's only shameful if you could've prevented a crash but didn't. Play it safe at all times. So in my head I'm calculating distance, glide range, surface conditions, wind direction and the time it may take to stop once we've touched down. I’m not thinking but I am. Every pilot will tell you that you just get a feel for it, and that's so true, it takes a while to feel it but you eventually do… and then it's hard to lose.
As we steadily sink to the ground the fight with the elements becomes more intense. I am handling the yoke with one goal… landing… but the warm weather is making it a bit more of a job. I stop the subconscious ritual of checking the gauges and now focus my full attention on the far end of the runway. My eyes dart to the altimeter and see the countdown till wheels touch ground, quickly look back outside I try to remain strong but loose in my body movements. I had trimmed the plane for the perfect glide slope as soon as I had turned onto final so I don’t need to worry about that, which makes the fight a lot easier.
Closer, closer, closer... my instincts kick in, and my heart starts beating a little faster as I see the ground coming up fast. Just when it looks like we are going to hit the ground nose first I pull back slowly but firmly and we float. I apply a little bit of power so we stay floating just above the ground for as long as possible. My left arm feels like it is going to break off, it is keeping us in the air, holding the yoke so far back it’s almost into my stomach. I always regret not exercising whenever I fly because it's difficult holding so much weight for so long. When I'm satisfied with the time we spent floating in the air I take off all power and the plane slowly sinks I pull back even more on the yoke trying to keep my nose wheel off the ground while we sink to the ground. The tail wheels softly touch the ground and I sigh with relief, my main job is done. We are safe. I lower the nose wheel to the ground. I call the local area traffic and tell them we are cleared of the active runway and then I let my left hand fall to my lap as my feet steer us back to the tie down area. I glance down at my hand, it is shaking from the effort, red from gripping the yoke so tightly and drops of sweat run down my palm. I rub it against my jeans and begin the shutdown process.
I mentioned one time to my instructor about how I didn't like when flying was a fight. He looked at me and stated “Madam, flying is always a fight. You have to fight or you won't fly. It's a constant battle.” That is what was in the back of my head the whole time that landing was playing out…. and everything I fly now, “flying is a fight.”. I walk around the airplane before every flight. A lot of the time I'm talking to God. I have to make sure that my battle isn't alone. Okay, yes that's sort of a stretch but consider this: flying commands that you always are two steps ahead of what the airplane will do, that's the fight, keep your head outside of the cockpit and on the task at hand. Without Jesus I don't have strength and I don't have the common sense… all of that comes from Him. So of course I need him to help me in the physical battles I have, however small they may seem.
When you constantly fight you get tired very easily, like in the story my hand was shaking it was so tired, it reminds me that fighting Christ is useless and not worth it, it is only when you give him control that the ride is smoother and gives you a peace of mind. Who has control of your airplane called life?