My mom and pregnant wife weren’t too happy when they heard I was going to be taking a little joy-flight for work last week, but to their relief and others, I made it back.

Back from where, you ask?

In anticipation for the Aerospace and Arizona Days Air Show last weekend, a woman from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association asked if we would like to send a reporter on an introductory flying lesson, all with the purpose of having us remind people it is possible to take flying lessons.

Just as all of the pilots in the air show this past weekend did, I took my first flying lesson. Instead of going to, I went for work (yeah, it is a tough job sometimes).

After talking with a few people at Double Eagle Aviation about camps and classes they offer, for my story, I was asked for proof of my citizenship prior to the flight lesson. Since Sept. 11, 2001, new flight regulations require proof of citizenship or a background check to get a hands-on flying experience.

After the details were taken care of, a coworker, Chief Pilot Samuel Ragland and myself went out on the tarmac and headed toward a Cessna 172. This is a four-seat, single-engine, high- and fixed-wing aircraft.

Ragland pointed out what the tools and instruments were on the dash before me. Throttle, choke, altimeter, GPS, clock, rudder controls, tilt control, pitch control and more, but more on those later.

Before I knew it, we were lined up on the runway and clear for take off. Ragland did all of the fancy footwork (the rudders are controlled by the feet, so this simile works). He simply had me rest my hands on the controller and the pedals as he lifted the plane off the ground.

We headed south and pretty much stayed over Interstate 19. While cruising around 5,000 feet, Ragland pointed out the controls once again. He pushed on the right pedal, causing the rudder to swivel and the plane’s nose to yaw to the right. We were still flying in the same direction, but the plane’s nose was not aimed in the direction we were heading.

This yaw, combined with the roll from turning the controller is what makes the plane turn. But, if you turn too hard, you will drop in pitch, so one needs to pull back on the controller to raise the nose up.

All of this sounded perfectly simple, this coming from someone who has logged a little bit of time playing video games.

One thing I found out: flying a jet in Battlefield 3 on the Xbox 360 is a lot easier than flying a Cessna in real life.

I can hear you now, “Well, duh Randy.” But I honestly thought it would help me up there. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think I could get up in the air, jump out of the plane, shoot a rocket launcher at another plane, then jump back in the plane (yes, this is something one can do in Battlefield 3) but I thought I would have a better understanding of the finesse it takes to fly a plane.

Shortly after I took the controls, the plane yawed right, the nose pitched a little down, and it seemed as if the tail was going to pass us.

Ragland casually gabbed the controls in front of him, and with a few very finessed moves, the plane was flying straight again.

All I could think was, “I am so glad you are here right now.”

I would not say I got the hang of it with a 20-minute flight. But I got a huge appreciation for the talent it takes to fly a plane normally, let alone the stunts one sees pilots do at air shows.

After we landed, and I departed the airport, I didn’t have an extreme desire to fly again. But, as the week has passed, I find myself thinking about flying more and more. Even though I can check this off my bucket list if I had one, I wouldn’t mind checking it again. It was a wonderful experience and would love to have another go at what my cousin and grandfather did in the Navy.

See the video from our flight at

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