How Not To Fly A Plane


Most of you probably already know that my husband is a flight instructor. He is paid to hop in a plane everyday with people he barely knows and teaches them how to fly gracefully above the beautiful Texas land. As you can imagine, a job like this would require a fair amount of trust and patience (neither quality I strongly posses’). While I have been given the chance to fly quite regularly with Matthew over the last 5 years, I have never really taken the initiative to ‘learn’ the ropes of the plane if for any reason to share in his hobby that he is so passionate about (and of course to be able to personally answer yes if a flight attendant yells “oh my gosh, is there a pilot on board” on a crowded plane). Well that all changed today when I asked my brave, oh so brave, husband to treat me like a first time student and not his wife of three years. I could see this ending in one of two ways; 1. I am a natural Amelia Earhart, a maverick in the sky, pushing all the right buttons and making all the radio calls. or 2. I am a natural yet elusive Turkey, surprising agile, but limited in airtime as we like to stay closer to the ground because that is where the food is at. I’ll let you all be the judge of that. The following are just a few key items to remember when wanting to learn how to fly:

  • Evaluate relationship with flight instructor


  • Whether your married to your instructor or not, it is probably a wise idea to make sure that the personalities line up enough to where you feel comfortable to learn and to be taught. If it is someone who makes you nervous or annoys you, the motivation and drive to really learn may not be there. In my case, I needed to look at several different things. Were our wills in place just in case I manage to kill one or both of us (ie. who will get the cats..liz lemon?)? Are the spare blankets clean in the event of a major fight that will result in my husband sleeping on the couch for a night or two? Have I done anything to make him angry in the last month that would tempt him to push me out of a plane at 3,000 ft. Who has the better divorce lawyer? These are all very important situations to consider!
  • Pre-flight Check List


  • I am a list girl, so when Matthew whipped out this little book of items to check before taking of, I was in OCD heaven. Of the 100 or so preflight tasks to complete, I shall focus on an important one.  Apparently it is quite crucial to UNTIE said plane for the earth to which it is bound to. Who knew that three tethered ropes make the difference between going….and not going. My flight instructor knew this the whole time, and was testing me. I, failed miserably..Plane 1 Jennifer 0
  • Get familiar with dials on panel


    • We were flying a 2001 Cessna 172 which contains about 15 circular dials and one updated flux capacitor. Matthew did a quick rundown of a few of the dials, and I will short hand for you what I learned.
      • 1: Air speed indicator, tells you how fast you are going Smile duh..even a flightless bird such as the Ostrich could tell you that!
      • 2: Attitude indicator, reminds you ‘loose the tude’ and to check yourself before you wreck yourself, literally
      • 3: “Imitator” lets you know on a scale of 0-9 how close your imitation of being a pilot is. 0-2 you look like an ostrich,3-5  you’re a turkey 6-9 Amelia Earhart
      • 4:  Turn Coordinator with Gyroscope tells pilot how sharply they are going to need to tilt plane. if done correctly a fresh Gyro will be waiting for them upon landing.
      • 5: Plane indicator, is there solely to remind pilot that they are in fact flying a plane and not a train or a car.
      • 6: Vertical speed indicator..which is code for..your falling to the ground..and this is how fast your going to get there
      • 7: Candy cane indicator, lets pilot know exactly how long and how far they have to fly to get to the North Pole
  • Be clear with radio
    • For almost your whole flight you are connected with the flight instructor and tower by way of radio. This is so your position and your intentions are clear to all around you. For me..a person who clearly loves the sound of their own voice, it became a new venue to sing todays greatest hits. Fun fact: Did you know singing Miley Cyrus’ “We Cant Stop” is sudden and instant grounds to be dismissed from the plane by the flight instructor, even at 3000 feet? Furthermore, At one point I asked Matthew to stall and kill time as I was texting a friend that we were currently above them so they could come out and waive…he took this statement quite literal and “stalled” the plane..I stopped singing Miley after that.

We were in the air for a whopping total of 18 minutes before we, in an attempt to save the plane the citizens of bell county and our marriage, decided to land gracefully. I am proud to announce that no one died, no one is getting divorced and no one is sleeping on the couch. I will, however, be finding another hobby though Smile

Published by Jennifer Shidler

I am a Hoosier at heart who has moved to the heart of Texas with my husband Matthew, our cats Rowdy & Mosby and our dogs Lucy & Wrigley. Matthew is a Chief Flight instructor at a flight school in Austin and I care for my mother full time and write random thoughts and posts in between. I started writing this blog as a way to keep people back home updated on our lives here in Texas, and has turned into a way to relax, think and to make others laugh!

One thought on “How Not To Fly A Plane

  1. You are so brave!!! I can’t believe you did it!!! I still hate driving on I65!!! I still prefer the back roads and highways!!! I love the Candy Cane Indicator,,,my favorite flying instrument of all!!!

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