Landing at Houston Memorial Airport.

I’ve only flown in a small plane three times in my life.

Two of those flights have occurred within the past eight months – one last November and another last Monday evening. That most recent outing was probably my favorite.

Last fall and again this week, the pilot was a friend from Dallas. Last time he was here, he arrived in Van’s RV-6 kit plane built by his father in 1995.

It was a blast whizzing around in the little “pocket rocket” (as the pilot likes to call it), and I sort of felt like I was in a sky-high roller coaster. This time he came in a Cirrus SR-22, which is famous for being the most frequently purchased craft on the market. The 2003 model we left the Houston Memorial Airport in is a sleek machine equipped with four nice leather seats and a top-quality communications system (featuring comfortable noise-canceling Bose headsets that all but eliminate the ear-busting noise of the 310 horsepower motor and propeller).

Last time I went up in an MG roadster. This time I was in a BMW sedan.

Using incredibly little runway, the craft left the ground effortlessly into the slight northerly wind that was blowing on the late spring evening. As the pilot banked the plane eastward over Houston, I was amazed at the lack of vibration or anything remotely resembling unpleasantness.

With me in the co-pilot’s seat and another friend who lives locally seated in back, we circled Houston a few times, checking out the view from above and snapping photographs of familiar sights from a very unfamiliar angle.

Then the pilot took us on a surreal tour of eastern Texas County. At one point, he shared his impression of what lay below and stretched out before us in every direction.

“Compared to Texas, Missouri is like a painting,” he said.

As we cruised at about 1,000 feet (just below a pesky layer of overcast), the two locals in the plane enjoyed looking down at recognizable roads, buildings and other objects, and we were constantly wowed by how different things look from an aerial perspective. And if nothing else, our lofty view certainly reminded us of just how much forested land there is in Texas County –lots!

We headed north for a while, and then turned back toward Houston. All the while it was so smooth, so peaceful and so easy.

I kept thinking, “it doesn’t feel like we’re in an airplane.”

Once we got back to town, we circled a few more times and then the pilot made us feel like we were in a plane by conducting a high-speed “low pass” of the airport runway.

One word: Awesome!

Landing was another act of smoothness, and the whole experience left me with a feeling of overall satisfaction.

Chances are I’ll never own a private plane. But I’m glad to know what it’s like to fly in one.

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