Firsts.

Both my grandfather and father were private pilots. Both flew homebuilt airplanes and both had their tailwheel endorsements. Both of them also preferred flying “low and slow” and they preferred the classic tailwheel configuration. I love flying low and slow like they do but I don’t have my tailwheel endorsement. I can do low and slow just fine in a Piper Cherokee 140. I’ll never build an airplane as I did not inherit that talent from that side of the family. I’m perfectly fine with that.

Today I started lessons to get my complex and high performance endorsements. Complex means I’m flying an airplane with retractable gear and high performance means the airplane is rated higher than 200 horsepower.

Today I flew a Cessna Skylane 182 RG. Built in 1978, this airplane has a six-cylinder engine rated at 250 horsepower. It can carry 1200 lbs. That’s a lot of fuel and an additional person.

I have a decent amount of hours in a Cessna 172 but before today I had never flown the heavier 182. I’m also more of a low-wing guy (don’t tell my grandfather or father) but having grown up in high-wings with Dad and flown my share of Cessnas, this configuration doesn’t particularly bother me. The high performance engine means things happen faster so I need to be a little more on my game, and after the initial climb out and getting to cruise I felt more comfortable than I thought I would before jumping into the airplane. I went up with instructor Callie and I did some turns and climbs and descents and just got a feel for the airplane before coming back to the airport to try some landings. Callie demonstrated the first landing and then shadowed me on the rest of the landings, providing verbal guidance and nudging the controls when necessary. For a first lesson in this airplane I walked away feeling great, and weather and virus willing, I’m hoping to go back up with her next week to continue the adventure.

I’m now officially doing something the previous pilots in my family have not done by flying a high performance airplane with retractable gear. I mentioned to my mom on the telephone the other day that I wanted to start taking my aviation career beyond where Dad and Gramps went with theirs, and in many respects I am. But I’m not really surpassing them in any way, I’m simply going in a different direction. I really wish I could talk to them about this experience because I’m sure they’d both be grinning ear to ear.

I know I am.

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