Experiences come and experiences go, but some leave a more lasting impression than others.
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of enjoying a flight in a small two-seater airplane. It was an experience that ranks near the top of my all-time list and left an impression that surely won’t go away.
It all started when a couple of friends came to stay for a few days at the remote Texas County high country outpost where my wife Wendy and I reside. One of them flew in from the Dallas area.
I mean literally flew in – he landed at Houston Memorial Airport in a Van’s RV6 kit plane his dad built in 1995. The first order of business when he arrived was for him to take me and Wendy up for a flight above and around Houston. The two of us went up separately, because the RV6 is a two-seat aircraft. It’s also a speedy, highly maneuverable machine, so this was no ordinary aerial jaunt.
Once I squeezed my 6-3 frame into the passenger’s seat of the plane’s cockpit, my adrenaline began circulating and I knew I was in for some excitement. I put the Bose headsets on, Wendy took a few photos of us and the pilot (who prefers anonymity) taxied to the end of Houston Memorial’s 3,500-foot runway.
The wind was blowing hard – probably a good 25 knots – so I was warned that the ride would be pretty rough. I replied that I would be OK no matter how bumpy things got.
“Bring it on,” I said. “I was hoping that would be the case.”
Once we got off the ground, the pilot elevated to about 500 feet, banked the RV6 hard and we circled Houston a few times, with me snapping photos and trying to steady my little video recorder enough to get some footage. All the while, it was like being on an old-fashioned roller coaster (complete with side-to-side and up-and-down jolts a-plenty), and it’s a good thing I was strapped in.
Even so, one of the bigger bumps caused the top of my head to make hard contact with the glass cockpit canopy’s metal crossbar. The headset’s thick overhead piece thankfully softened the blow significantly, but I didn’t care, anyway, because looking down on Emmett Kelly Park, U.S. 63 and Walmart from the seat of a flying sports car made any momentary discomforts more than worthwhile.
After a few passes over town, we a followed a couple of paved highways eastward and eventually flew low over the remote Davison outpost. To say it was awesome hardly does the deal justice.
It’s wonderful to see everything from the air that’s so familiar on the ground. It somehow looks different, and yet easily recognizable.
After we bounced and flopped our way the 10 miles or so back to the airport, the pilot took a low pass over the runway without landing. Traveling at about 200 miles per hour that close to the ground in such a small flying machine was incredible, and I watched in amazement how fast objects went by.
Then it was time to land. The pilot re-approached the runway – from the north because of wanting to land into the wind – and of course, it wasn’t the smoothest of touchdowns. But once again, I didn’t care that the plane dropped pretty hard onto the tarmac – it was all part of the overall experience and I told my friend I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
And I really wouldn’t. From beginning to end, my thrilling time in the Van’s RV6 was perfect – fast, furious and downright fun.
After Wendy’s similar experience, we parked the craft inside one of the vacant bays in the City of Houston’s new hangar building (which, by the way, is one heck of a nice set up). When Sunday rolled around and it was time for our friend to leave, he said so long by banking hard shortly after takeoff, circling back toward where we stood near the runway and making a high speed pass not far over our waving arms.
It was somewhat sad to watch the RV6 head south and disappear into the overcast skies, but the memory of the experience was forever etched in my mind. God willing, maybe someday I’ll be seated in that plane again.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: email@example.com.