Flying a Cessna 172 Over the Mountains of North Carolina

Flying a Cessna 172 Over the Mountains of North Carolina

#NorthCarolina is a seriously beautiful place. What better way to soak it all in than from a plane 5,000 feet in the air? Thing were going well, and we were up and #active, flying high. It was supposed to be all fun and #relaxation, but we had a little issue mid-flight...

I stumbled into the vessel and took note of my surroundings. It was overwhelming: the buttons, knobs, screens, graphs, sprockets and thinga-ma-bobbers were all jumbled together on one dashboard. We flipped a couple switches, turned a couple of dials, and I eagerly awaited the next movement.

“That’s not good,” he said.

I glared. We hadn’t even left the ground yet.

“Dead battery. We’ll just wait for a minute.”

Our flying box

We were off to a great start, apparently, and if this plane wasn’t going to switch on, we were going to have to jump it (who knew you could jump-start a plane?) or find another airplane in their fleet that felt like starting.

My faith in my captain was dissolving quickly.

El Capitan, John

Five minutes and a few fumbles later and the engine finally mumbled itself into to a brisk growl. We wrapped headsets around our ears and John muttered a few nonsensical sentences into the microphone. Something about deltas and foxtrots.

from  $129

Discovery Flight Over North Carolina Mountains

 North Carolina, United States
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Good to go.

He was a flight sim geek whom I clearly surpassed in age. He couldn’t have been more than 22 and he was going to be aiding me in flying an airplane over the mountains of North Carolina.

Free parking

“Do you scare easily?” he inquired.

What a question! I told him I didn’t and that his warning of severe turbulence wouldn’t deter me. Because, you know, I’m hard like that.

Giving it some juice, the plane eased forward and I maneuvered the vehicle with my feet. Instead of using the steering wheel, two pedals control the left to right movement while the plane is on the ground. These pedals also adjust side-to-side movements while in the air.


Failing horribly at keeping the airplane moving in a forward fashion, and almost steering us off the runway, John decided it might be a better idea if he just took the reigns for our departure. I could definitely get on board with that.

With seemingly no effort whatsoever, we were racing down the runway.

So he punched the gas and, with seemingly no effort whatsoever, we were racing down the runway and lifting off into the air.

“Okay,” he said. “It’s all yours. Let’s get this sucker up to 5,000.”

Kissing the clouds

I pulled back on the wheel and the nose scaled the horizon. We climbed through the clouds until we were gliding right above them, just barely kissing the top layer with our landing gear.

Of course, I took the obligatory selfies from the cockpit and handed him my DSLR. For someone who knows how to fly a plane, this boy sure struggled with a zoom lens.

A stellar side profile...
A stellar side profile...

Wanting to get higher (of course), I pulled back once again and we rocketed further into the troposphere. I was told to keep it at 8,000 feet.

It was starting to get remarkably hot inside the cockpit so, turning to open the window, my eyes landed not on a closed window, but an open door.

The door had been hanging wide open for 15 minutes...

The door had been hanging wide open for 15 minutes and I hadn’t even realized it. I threw myself into the middle of the vessel, knowing full-well that I was literally inches from falling out of an airplane.

The mountains of North Carolina

The last time this happened, at least I had a parachute on my back. This time, I had a flimsy seatbelt and a pilot with 150 hours of training.

When I brought this slight oversight to John’s attention, he seemed to mimic my sentiment.

“OH SHIT,” he reiterated, as his lips pursed together with the realization of his own negligence. “Just pull that lever, lean out, and slam it shut. Like a car door.”

This was not a car door, however, and we were 8,000 feet in the air.

Getting ready to plummet to my death...via an open door

With things still going according to plan, we headed towards the city. We flew over the mountains of North Carolina and downtown Asheville, pointing out landmarks such as the Biltmore Estate, the largest house in America, and the French Broad River, the third oldest river in the world.

The trees were lush at this time of year, and I felt relieved to experience blue skies and green mountains after returning to a cold, hard winter from the tropics of Southeast Asia.

Soaring above the clouds

Feeling only slightly more secure in my seat now, I leaned hard to the right and took the wheel with me. We dipped and angled a cool 30 degrees and, with the nose of our plane aimed directly at the runway, we began our decent to the stable ground.

He took the helm and calmly set us back down on earth.

I looked at John and indicated that he’d better take over. There was no way I was going to try to put a plane ON the ground, because I felt much more assured that I would end up putting a plane THROUGH the ground.

Praying for my life

He took the helm and calmly set us back down on earth. We pulled into our parking space, tied our winged box down to the pavement, and just like that, it was over, like nothing out of the ordinary had happened that day. I casually retreated to the hardware store and duplicated a couple of keys.

Just a quick ol’ up and down, as they say.

Wait, they say that, right?

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