Monday, April 6, 2009

DA-20 Demo Ride

Last Friday, I took my first ever flight in a general aviation airplane. This was a demo flight and my mission was to see what it is like to fly in a small airplane. The above picture shows what the cockpit looks like in the Diamond DA-20 Eclipse that I flew. I guess it is technically accurate to say I flew it since I did control the stick for about 3 minutes and I made a shallow left hand banking turn. However, for the most part I was a passenger- in the left seat. The picture below shows the frontal view out of the actual plane from my seat.

Overall this was a fun experience and it did give me a good feel for what a GA flight is like in a small 2-seater. The conditions where clear and about 45 degrees. I was told it was bumpy up to about 3,500 ft. and we never went above that level. It was a little bumpy and at times unsettling- but I became comfortable with it rather quickly. I kept reminding myself that there has not been one US fatality in the DA-20 since it was introduced in the late 1980's..... "Wait what website was it that I read that on again, I think it had frames... when did Al invent the Internet again...I hope that is still true" moving on.

The flight initiated at Flying Cloud Airport (KFCM) in Eden Prairie, MN from runway "28R with golf" we ascended briskly to about 1500 feet leveled off and head
ed out about 10NM. We then circled around at level altitude over the area of Lake Minnetonka at ~100 knots. The view was fantastic! As I have read from others, flying in the DA-20 is almost like having the plane strapped to you.

Before I knew it, the time was up and we were headed back toward the airport. The CFI called the tower and we were cleared to land- again on 28R- with a right pattern from the west. The landing was a fun experience and smooth.

I can see why the DA-20 is highly regarded as a flight tr
ainer. The plane is simple, comfortable (once you relax) and has fantastic visibility. The space inside is tight but ample once underway with your intended purpose- flight.

I had to overcome a little bit of the "what the hell are you doing anyway" that was going on in my mind as we closed the hatch. "I mean you just met this young fellow 20 minutes ago and now your strapped in this plastic tube with an engine on it and we just
closed the lid." I felt trapped and constrained for just a few minutes- committed as it were. However, once we got the engine running and started moving through the check list items, I was fine. This was not unlike the feeling I had when I descended the first 10 feet during my first ocean dive in SCUBA training. I look at it as my mind gently asking the question- "are you sure you know what you are doing?"

This reminds me of a colleague at work that toured a cave on vacation and found herself in the bellows of said cave with too many people, only enough room to crawl, and nothing but battery powered torch light. About the time it was way too late to turn back without spoiling everyone's fun, she realized that her own mind was screaming at her to get the hell out of there! It is both interesting and remarkable that sometimes the one thing most difficult for the mind to overcome is itself. You have to rely on what is deeper and closer to you than you own mind to get through these situations. She gained control and made it out fine. For my brief SCUBA career that has so far come to an end after 10 magnificent dives in the GBR of Australia, it is the fact that I overcame my own mind while descending the first 10 feet of my first ocean dive of the coast of Sydney, that I hold most dear some 6 years later. The incredible feelings and scenes underwater come in a very close 2nd :)

The pictures bellow show the view from the cockpit but don't come close the real experience!

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