By Rose Rivera
As a pilot, I have spent many hours in airplanes, particularly training aircraft. Because of weather and expenses, my instructor and I have made use of a flight simulator when possible. However, my limit for the number of training hours with it has almost been reached, meaning the rest of the training needs to be the real deal: real airplane, real flight plan, real ATC, and real weather. A recent day worked out beautifully for that — well, almost. I finished class up a little late because of some presentations for our group projects. I skipped breakfast mostly, had not eaten lunch yet, and realized last minute my flight lesson was an hour earlier than I anticipated. This meant it started in 10 minutes.
I am 15 minutes away from the airport, having told my instructor I thought I could be early, am still in my student nursing uniform, and am starting to shake because of not eating. Great! Off I go, tearing down the highway, trying to be as on-time as humanly possible, while repacking my backpack, eating half a sandwich and putting different shoes on. Watch out world! We get there and get off the ground in a hurry — weather coming, again. With our sights to the northwest, we head to Gainesville to pick up an IFR approach there and come back to Leesburg, Florida. Almost the whole way there we flew through actual IMC (meaning lots of clouds).
Training has become work to me at times. I have to think so hard. It is not that I do not appreciate the opportunity. As a Ray Scholarship recipient from EAA Chapter 534, I feel very privileged to be able to pursue aviation like this. But I can never get over the thrill of flying in and around clouds. It catches my breath every time. And that is what we did for more than half an hour while I ate the other half of my sandwich at 4,000 feet. Haha, nothing like being a pilot. Thank God for autopilot! So, as we flew in and around clouds, I sat and joked with my instructor, learning a few hints and tips about real-life IFR flying.
When you go through a cloud like that, it is incredible. It comes closer and closer until it swallows you up. All around you is thick blinding whiteness (hopefully not grey or black colored). You have no reference to any ground-based physical objects. All you have are your instruments. And then a few seconds later, you break through out into the sunshine. The rest of the clouds look like wisps of steam. Kind of like life. When things come and take out any reference to what we can see and feel, we have to trust our instruments. The circumstances can blind us to the reality of what goes on. As long as we trust what we know to be true, we will come out on the other side, right side up.
The way back held one or two more surprises. A stunning rainbow laid out on a large lake. I told my instructor, “Take the controls. I have to get a picture.” The colors were so pure and clear. The scenery was amazing. I have never before seen a rainbow like that on the ground from the airplane — a memory I will carry for a while. Words do not do justice to a creation of God like that. (But I tried anyway.)
On the way back, we cancelled our IFR in order to drop down quick for a VFR landing. Heavy rainstorms were just on the edge of the airport. That was close! But fun. A really good flight, overall. And I look forward to many more in future. Now, my advice to you is to go find a rainbow of your own.
Rose Rivera is the pen name of an EAA member and Ray Scholarship recipient who lives in Florida and is currently working on her instrument rating.