The Liberty Gazette
September 2, 2014Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: The smiles said it all, the Pinch Hitter course held at West Houston Airport was a success. Sharing the passion for flight and some knowledge and encouragement, a handful of pilots met with 50 non-pilot flying companions to begin a journey to learn how to land the plane they ride in often, in case they have to.
Nobody wants bad things to happen, but the fact that the class was at maximum capacity shows that people are willing to face reality and begin to prepare if they need to take over and land the plane.
Chances are, that won’t ever happen, but if it does, one would want to be prepared. There’s a significant beauty in this, even if basic survival instinct is what motivated attendees to register. The beauty is the fact that when families and loved ones share in an activity, communications improve, relationships are enhanced, appreciation grows, and people discover more about themselves and the world around them.
And non-pilots discover they can do it – they can understand more about what makes an airplane fly, how to communicate, and what to do in case of emergency.
The non-pilot flying companion course isn’t only about landing the plane in an emergency. It’s also about sharing flying duties and putting more purpose in the passenger’s flight experience. By participating and understanding more about the flying process, participants gain a different perspective on flying, potentially to the point of pegging the enjoyment meter. Some students of flying companion courses have gone on to earn their own pilot license, but there is never any pressure to. Rather, they are encouraged to take the next step toward becoming more than just a passenger.
Building up confidence that the pilot companion could assume control of the aircraft and get it onto the ground safely if something should happen to the pilot, and building on that confidence to further enhance the flying experience can have nothing but good as the outcome.
Mike: Five Pinch Hitter instructors helped to present the vast amount of material covered in the daylong session, from aerodynamics and radio communication to air space, traffic patterns, emergency procedures, and more.
By the end of the day 98% of the attendees stated that they are ready to "take the next step", whatever the next step is for them. That may mean scheduling time with a flight instructor, training in the aircraft in which they most often ride, or the next step may be to become comfortable with operating radios or GPS units. Whatever that next step is, this group of flying companions proved to be courageous, smart, and sensible – a dynamic group of people who put aside their Saturday to make the effort to learn more about the world that has captured the heart of their loved one.
The Pinch Hitter program used to be offered by AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. While educational materials are still available from AOPA, as well as an online course, conducting the course in person is now the work of volunteers.
That makes especially rewarding the requests for a course that began coming in from other parts of Houston, Dallas, and Austin, even before this course had begun. Details are being worked out for the next course to be offered in November, this time in Conroe, with another in Fort Worth in February.
Let the journeys begin!