Sunday, June 08, 2014

Sylvia Carignan: How I learned to stop worrying and love flying - Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), Maryland

Frederick News-Post reporter Sylvia Carignan takes the controls of the Diamond DA40 Saturday during a flight as part of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Learn to Fly Day at the Frederick Municipal Airport.  

By Sylvia Carignan 
Frederick News-Post reporter

I hate flying. I hate having to check in before my flight, I hate taking my shoes off while I go through security, and I hate sitting on the tarmac.

Don’t even ask me what I think about luggage.

But Saturday morning, in an experience stripped of all that anxiety, I changed my mind.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association pilot Dan DeDona took me on my first flight in a single-engine plane at the association’s Learn to Fly Day at Frederick Municipal Airport.

Helicopters, gyroplanes and a hot air balloon basket were on display. Kids took nosedives into virtual oceans in two flight simulators set up on computers for the occasion.

According to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Communications Coordinator Kristen Seaman, 173 people flew in small airplanes at the airport during the event Saturday.

Compared with a day at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, it was a cakewalk.

DeDona's Diamond DA40 has four seats and is so light that when it's taxiing, any bumpiness on the runway radiates out to the wingtips. Turning on the “air conditioning” means opening the top half of the glass-enclosed cockpit.

But no security officers. No body scans. And no beige plastic trays for watches and travel-sized shampoo bottles.

With DeDona at the helm and our photographer and me in tow, we go through the checklist — DeDona talks to the tower and flips some switches, and I wonder what each button does.

Once we’re on the runway and the engine kicks in, none of that matters. The line between being on the ground and being in the air blurs until you can’t tell the difference, and then: nothing.

There is nothing under you. You’re flying.

It’s so easy, in this plane, to forget about the nearly-200 horsepower engine and the fact that it weighs almost a ton. DeDona knows the feeling.

“It just wants to leap off the ground,” he said.

DeDona lets me steer the plane by hand for a few minutes, and it tilts and pulls up at the slightest touch. This is not the flight simulator I hooked up to a joystick in my childhood, where turning left meant jamming the stick so hard that the suction cups pop off the coffee table.

The view is better here, though. We fly over the orange dirt and teal water of the quarry, looking out at the mountains and endless green.

I could get used to this.

Reporter Sylvia Carignan takes the controls of the Diamond DA40 with pilot Dan DeDona on Saturday.

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