Hop #1 today.
Met my new flight instructor. Seems a nice guy, if laconic. Looked at my (20 year old) logbook, read all the endorsements and comments carefully, asked me a few questions and said "Let's go find an airplane."
So we did.
After a fumbling walkaround on my part, missing a few things (fuel strainer drain - how can you forget that? You're juvenile, and it makes the Cessna pee on the tarmac) but carrying my checklist (which turned out to be for a different mark of Skyhawk, so NYAH) we pulled the airplane out of the hangar and got in. Plugged in com headphones. I stuffed my fat ass inside it, got my door and window shut, managed to start the engine properly, and we taxied out to the active (32/14, we were using 32 at 7B2 today). New in my experience, this airport doesn't have a parallel taxiway; it's got a taxiway to approximately the middle of the strip, and then you 'backtaxi' to the end where there's a spot to turn around and hold short if other traffic is coming in, as we had to once today.
Did the runup on the turn pad, got lined on up centerline, nodded to the FI when he pointed out that the windsock was indicating a 10kt crosswind, set the yoke hard over into the wind, put heels on floor and gave it full throttle, waited for the speed to hit 65 (MPH, in this model Skyhawk, confusing me since I learned in a later one which was calibrated for knots) and then...
Pull back. Watch the nose of the airplane rise. Be surprised, as always, at how 'heavy' the airplane feels when it's trimmed for takeoff; how it presses up against your yoke when a gust hits, and how hard it is to maintain the proper climbout until you trim it in. Feel the oh-so-familiar 'swiveling' of the airplane under me as the nose is bounced left and right of my heading by winds and by propwash on the left side of the vertical stabilizer. Then...
I started laughing.
The instructor just produced a small but knowing smile and immediately had me climb to 2500 in the practice area and then put me through turns, steep turns, slow flight, stalls. It wasn't until after the stalls, when he was giving me a tour of the practice area, that I remembered I should have been nervous because I hadn't done this in so long., especially as I was getting some of his theory questions - well, not wrong, but just admitting "I don't remember that."
Nope. As he put it, "The airplane's still in your head and hands, isn't it."
Yes, it is. The smell of 100LL avgas. The feel of old fiberglass. The smell of Lycoming (Continental?) engine oil. The sputtering roar of the engine. The occasional mournful hoot of the stall warning horn in slow flight, when wind gusts pitched us back.
Then after 40 minutes, we headed back to the airport, and he said "Land it."
I said "I haven't-"
And he said "You fly the airplane fine. Land us. I'll give you our local landmarks. For one thing, you're set up fine for crosswind; aim for the bridge on Bridge street, see it? Okay, turn downwind just past the fairgrounds."
So I clicked the mic without thinking about it and said "Northampton traffic, Skyhawk 12732 is turning left downwind for 32 Northampton and a full stop." Then I turned the airplane downwind just past the fairgrounds. Said to the FI "When even with touchdown, go flaps, right?"
Pulled in 10 degrees of flaps as my touchdown point vanished under the wing strut and pulled out power to 1700. At his suggestion, turned base just before the river; caught a glimpse of the runways at Westover near the horizon through the notch in the ridge off to the south before I had to start watching left, letting the airplane drift down and slow. "We like 80 on base, 70 on final," the FI said, and I struggled for a moment to make it so before remembering to just set the power and let the airplane slow itself down. He nodded.
"Northampton traffic, Skyhawk 12732 is base to final for 32 Northampton for a full stop." Silence on the CTAF.
Watched the runway numbers coming up towards us, and...and...and...oh shit, sliding left, shit sliding RIGHT, CRAP I'M ALL OVER THE GODDAMN-
"Not bad. Taxi back down and we'll go again."
Did three landings. Only came down moderately hard once. We shut down the airplane and went back inside the FBO.
"Well, as I said, you fly the airplane fine. Let's work on getting you soloed ASAP. You'll need your medical, and this pre-solo written..."
Ever do something you haven't done in a long time, and immediately wonder why the hell you stopped, because it's awesome?
Flying an airplane is like that.
Holy crap, I think I had a good day.
I learned to fly originally due to the example of my uncle, who passed away over a decade ago. Hindered by polio from his teens, he found freedom in wheelchair basketball, fun cars and flying his Beechcraft. Because of him, I learned to fly. Henry, I miss you, but when I was flying today, I think you were finally grinning with approval.