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Winging It! With Dr. Paul


Toni Wakes drawing At the age of fourteen, Erika is a natural pilot. From the day her legs were long enough to reach the rudder pedals, she's understood that your feet turn the airplane; the ailerons merely roll the wing. Her mother decided long ago she'd fly before she drives, and I concur. Once you've soloed an airplane, we reasoned, you're less likely to use the roads to show off to your friends. Flying, we figured, instills a sense of responsibility which could not help but transfer to the driving task.

Besides, the flight instructor in me mused, by flying first she'd never have to unlearn all those counterproductive car driving habits. You know, like the ridiculous idea of steering with your hands. I never realized it might work the other way. Not until her first driving lesson, when I watched her trying to press the accelerator to turn right, the brake pedal to go left!

Though growing up around airplanes, Erika has always been somewhat indifferent to them. When she was quite small, back in my Renter Pilot days, I reserved a Piper Cherokee to give my daughter her first taste of flight. She snuggled comfortably into the right seat, fell fast asleep during the takeoff roll, awoke again on landing. I should pay $25 an hour for her to sleep, I wondered?

My son, on the other hand, was quick to realize that flying sets us apart. Andrew must have been about five when first he noticed that not every kid on the block enjoys weekend jaunts in the old family airplane. Snobbery set in quickly; I remember him saying to another five year old at a hotel wading pool, "We flew here in our own plane. How did you get here?"

Erika, however, still takes flying for granted. So about the time she was able to hold altitude and heading, I introduced her to instrument flight. Showed her the right-left needle, the up-down needle (never call them localizer and glideslope, don't want to intimidate her). Lined up on the ILS, though there was no reason for her to hear the term. Showed her how when you turn the plane, the right-left needle moves the other way; how when you pitch the plane up and down, the up-down needle does the opposite.

"Keep 'em centered," I told Erika, and sat back to watch her execute a perfect instrument approach, the needles never deviating out of the doughnut. My chest swelled with pride. My daughter, I boasted to myself, is a natural!

"This is getting boring," she said along about the Outer Marker. "When do we get to shoot down Klingons?"

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