Nelson's View

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What a rush

I was given the opportunity for a ride of a lifetime last Friday afternoon before Fly Iowa kicked off. There are hardly words to describe the ride. As part of a media day fellow reporter Lorri Glawe and I were given the opportunity to each ride in a plane. She rode along in a aerobatic ethanol powered 2 seater MX-2 plane flown by Greg Poe.

I rode along in a support plane (flown by Dax Wanless) where I was not only able to take aerial photos of Storm Lake but get close up shots of the plane Lorri was in as it flew right next to the support plane and did stunts. For me it wasn't the chance of a lifetime to go spiralling around in the sky in a air show plane but to get to take such unique photos.

Any time I've ever tried to take photos while in an air plane (which has usually been a commercial jet) I've usually found myself sitting in seat where one of the wings is blocking my view and the windows are too itty bitty too see anything anyway. Or there's the issue of having to take photos of planes up in the sky that turn out to be only tiny specks in the picture.

The whole side door of the support plane was removed so that I could get the most amazing shots. Before I stepped into the plane Dax helped fit me into a harness which would then attach to a seat in the plane. Dax assured me that I was well harnessed in and wasn't going anywhere. However, I was still a little nervous being that far up in the sky (going faster than 100 miles an hour) with such a large portion of the plane missing. I hoped the pilot wouldn't tip too far to one side or try a roll over because I would have gone flying out the open door and would have experienced some skydiving (only without a chute). Dax warned me as he put my harness on that it was only a harness and not a chute so if I jumped out of the plane at any time it wouldn't help me. Lorri was nervous at the thought of having to wear a chute (with hopes that didn't mean that the plane was surely going to crash) and I was nervous at the prospect of not having one. The pilot said I could unharness myself from my seat if I wanted to move around the plane, however, I was quite content to stay harnessed in. Dax gave me a pair of headphones so we could communicate back and forth, however, it was quite a noisy ride. Now and then I would hear him yell out, "cameras ready?" as Poe got ready to do a stunt. The wind whipped my hair in every direction. After we landed the Channel 4 cameraman I had shared the experience with said it was a good look for me. For a small second of my life I dreamed about what it might be like to get my pilot's license and try flying one of these things.

* Jennifer Nelson is a member of the Pilot news staff.