Despite what I’m studying in school, I have a secret passion for flying. Something about being above the world, looking down at what seems so significant on the ground yet so trivial from above, is both exhilarating and refreshing. Given the opportunity to get up in the air again, I was going to take it. This past Grand Marshal Week, RPI’s Flying Club offered flyovers of the campus, and Stephanie and I, along with my roommate Tucker, jumped on the opportunity. Now begins a play-by-play of our adventure.
Our chauffeur, Justin, awaited us by the Rensselaer Union in a luxurious BMW to transport us to the airfield. Nothing says classy like showing up to a private hangar in a car you’re not driving, that’s what I say.
So we arrived at the airport terminal, aptly called Million Air (it’s a pun) and apparently the flight came with a TSA Pre-Check because I got to keep my shoes on the whole time, which was great. Our pilot was none other than President of the RPI Flying Club Alessandro Galli ’16. He went over our flight plans, safety stuff, and answered Steph’s numerous questions. I was a bit disappointed he didn’t show us how to clip in our seatbelts, to be honest, as I’d forgotten and it is clearly the most important part of any flight.
While Alessandro did a walkaround of the aircraft, we got to check out the extravagance that is Million Air. That place was fancy. There was a popcorn machine! They had orchids on the tables! I mean, they were fake, but you don’t see fake orchids at the Albany Bus Terminal do you?
With that settled, it was time to get in the air. We determined that Tucker, being the only aeronautical engineering major of the group, should have the honor of sitting up front. Headsets on, some secret code between pilot and tower, and we were off. Well … taxiing down the runway, at least.
I’m not gonna lie, I had a huge grin the whole time we were making our way to the runway. It’s exciting! And for me, takeoff never gets old. Now in the proper position, Alessandro said some more random words and letters into the headset, and then we were off.
It was a bit comical how little runway it took us to get off the ground. We made it maybe a fifth of what was available before it was disappearing beneath us. Not long after we had climbed to around 1,500 feet, and we were cruising back toward Rensselaer.
At this point, I have to let the pictures do the talking. It’s just too difficult to encompass the wonder of being a quarter mile in the air and looking down at the Earth. It’s something humans were never meant to do, but it’s freaking awesome! Also, appreciate the sacrifice I had to make to get you, the readers, those pictures. I got a little airsick while looking through the lens, but I’m just thankful I didn’t have to use that little blue bag in the seatback pocket.
Looking at RPI from above was just amazing. It’s funny now to walk around and look at the towering buildings and tiring hills and think about how flat and small everything was from above. No matter how many times I fly, I always have those thoughts. Life is all about perspective, I guess.
But, enough philosophy, back to the story. After two laps around RPI, we set course south toward Albany. I don’t know if you’ve ever driven through Albany, but let me tell you, those highway overpasses are kooky. Who was in charge of scribbling out that road system? Because I’d like to shake that person’s hand. It would be a city builder’s dream come true to check out that highway system from above. Maybe not a city builder, but someone who likes watching complex roadways work their magic (me). I wish I had gotten a better picture of it, but a combination of—ahem—my sickness and the fact that someone had an “emergency” that required a medical evacuation to fly into Albany Medical Center cut our time there short.
Alessandro got back on the radio and spoke some more code to the tower. Up ahead and travelling much, much faster than us was a private jet. Air traffic control told us to “just slip in behind him,” or something to that effect, so we did as we were told. But the scenario that played out was more like “we’ll watch him land from really far away and slowly make our way back, in due time of course.” Cessna 172’s aren’t known for being particularly speedy.
After a smooth landing—better than some commercial ones I’ve had—we were safely on the ground again. We taxied our way back to Million Air, and our adventure was coming to a close. We were asked to take a picture with the plane for the club and happily obliged. Alessandro told us explicitly not to touch the propellor as we lined up for the photo. So Steph touched it, we took the picture, and we were on our way.
We again had the luxury of traveling back to Rensselaer with our chauffeur, Justin. Nothing like door to door service to make you feel like a … Million Air. Ha! I’m hilarious. But seriously, it was a great experience and a ton of fun. I hope the Flying Club continues the tradition, because it is definitely something everyone should have the opportunity to do.
Editor’s Note: All passengers were given a comprehensive safety briefing prior to the flight, including the use of seat belts. Safety cards were provided prior to departure graphically showing the operation of the seat belts and passengers were asked prior to engine start if they had any questions and if they had their seat belts on.