Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jan 23, 2018

What goes up...

Oct 02, 2015
Photo by: Bryce Kelly A bird’s eye view of the City of Mt. Pleasant.

At 23 years of age, and in seemingly good health, I don’t have much of a bucket list. Besides traveling to another country, there isn’t much I had ever thought about doing before I die…until perhaps this past weekend.

As a journalist, it’s in my nature to be curious about the world and about why people do the things they do. And while my natural curiosity hasn’t killed me yet (knock on wood), it’s very possible that last week’s little excursion could have done so.

I had reported on the Young Eagles Fly In, a Mt. Pleasant Kiwanis-sponsored event, before and it was a fun time. I got to see kids, many of whom had never been in an airplane before, take a quick trip around Mt. Pleasant in planes flown by local pilots, who simply love to share their passion for flying with others.

This year, it was much of the same. Kiddos from all around Henry County came and went, I took some photos and talked to a few of the men in charge. And just when I thought I was ready to go home, a family friend flew in to the Mt. Pleasant Airport. This friend is currently in the process of buying a plane of his own and happened to be out that morning testing a possible purchase.

And just about the time he sauntered over to chat, my curiosity betrayed me.

Before I knew it, I was asking him all these questions about his plane, how it worked and some of the crazy experiences he has had in the air. Being a plane fanatic, he was happy to oblige me, but then took it one step further than I ever meant our talk to go.

“Bryce, you should just go up and fly a bit,” he suggested to me. “I can’t take you, but I am sure one of the other guys would take you up for a little while.”

Now, although I insisted that I didn’t want to impose on anyone, a kind pilot by the name of Don Lindholm, of Burlington, offered to take me and another friend, Alecia, up for a ride.

Lindholm has a gorgeous 1951 red Cessna 170 with chrome detailing that looks like it belongs on an old Hollywood film set. And although I had a few pre-flight jitters, I was secretly very excited to take to the skies in the red beauty.

Once we had all piled in and fastened our seatbelts, I, in the front co-pilot seat, and Alecia in the backseat, we were ready to take off.

Before I continue, I would like to go on the record and say that Don is an excellent pilot and quite knowledgeable about airplanes. While we flew, he pointed out various things about the plane and how to use all the dashboard gadgets to navigate in the air. And it wasn’t long before I started to relax and just take it all in, and that’s when Don pulled a fast one on me.

Just as we were flying over the Oakland Mills campground and I had finished snapping a few photos, Don turned to me and said, “Why don’t you fly for a bit.”

To this day, I am not totally sure if the words were to be taken as more of a question or a strong suggestion, but Don directed the statement at me, so I had to come up with some sort of intelligent response. And in what seemed like five nanoseconds, about 16 million different things rushed through my mind.

What would my mom say? I can barely drive my own car in the snow; I can’t fly a plane! Is he crazy?! We’ve only been in the air for 15 minutes! Is it even legal?

And just like when your big brother throws you into the deep end of the pool to teach you how to swim, Don let go of the controls and gave me a nod to grab the co-pilot steering yoke in front of me.

It was a sink or swim, fly or fall moment.

When my fingers reluctantly wrapped around the controls, it occurred to me that the safety of everyone aboard the aircraft was, literally, in the hands of a woman that had had exactly 15 minutes of small aircraft flying experience under her belt. I felt for a moment as though I could throw up everything but my childhood memories right on Don’s pristine leather interior.

Thankfully, I held down breakfast and kept my composure long enough for Don to give me a quick how-to-fly-a-plane-and-not-kill-us-all tutorial. And, before I knew it, I was flying solo.

Now, not to toot my own horn, but I wasn’t too bad of a flier for my first go round. As per Don’s instructions, I simply followed the river below and tried to keep the nose of the plane level.

And while I was on red-level alert for even the slightest malfunction or minor issue, Don seemed more interested in taking pictures of Alecia and me with my own camera.

Because time was the last thing on my mind, I can’t rightfully say exactly how long I got to fly, but it was long enough to get my adrenaline pumping and make me feel like I was piloting Air Force One.

I was still flying high when we finally landed back down on the runway. Giving Don a big hug, I thanked him and told him he had unknowingly crossed a must-do off my bucket list. I also internally thanked the Lord Almighty for sparring me from plummeting to an early grave before I got to travel to England and Ireland.

As to whether or not I have decided to get my pilot’s license and become a young, female Don Lindholm, I can’t say just yet. All I know is that it took several hours, a few Tylenol and a full day’s work to get me off that airplane high.

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