One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work revolves around the ability to take others aloft in a bright yellow and black Reimagined Cessna 152.
The airplane is pretty much a stock C-152, not much different than those you’ve probably logged time in. What separates the airplane I fly from the one you flew is the complete refurbishment of the Reimagined C-152 at the Aviat facility in Afton, Wyoming.
Yes, it’s true. Everything actually works in the Reimagined I fly. The paint is fresh, the panel has no open holes where an instrument used to be, there are no “inop” labels taped to their faces. It’s as close to a new airplane as you can get.
And this particular airplane fits a niche in the market that not a single manufacturer I know of is attempting to fill any longer. When it comes to rugged, dependable, affordable flying, it’s hard to beat the otherwise pedestrian looking C-152.
The airplane I fly has steam gauges. Round faced, analog instruments arranged in a standard six-pack on the panel. They provide all the information required to fly safely, and they present that information in a way that’s easy to understand.
For all the wonders of glass cockpits, and there are many, the gizmos that provide our situational awareness information can be daunting to a Rusty Pilot who is already feeling trepidation about how hard it will be to get current again.
They’re also a total mystery to young people who have no background in aviation, but might, just might, have a hidden desire to fly.
Too often that hidden desire is tucked so far back into the deep, dark recesses of their brains, they may not even be consciously aware of their interest in aviation.
Thankfully, with the Reimagined C-152 available to haul folks up beyond their normally ground-based experience with life, I have a secret weapon that amazes every rider I’ve taken up so far. And after we fly together, each of those riders finds aviation a bit less elusive.
I made a new friend recently. Alena Giersberg is a young German woman in the U.S. to explore our culture and better understand us as a people. She’s spent the last several weeks in Florida, then will move on to a Canadian town to continue her research, and ultimately go back home to Deutschland to finish her studies.
Although Alena had never flown in a general aviation airplane, and she’d certainly never considered taking the controls herself, she’s got a bit of family connect to aviation. Her grandfather, Wenzel Brixa, was a designer and pilot of gliders in the 1930s, through World War II, and beyond. Apparently not content to limit himself to sleek, efficient gliders, his logbook included time at the stick of the Messerschmitt ME 321 Gigant, a monster of a machine that even today would be impressive in its capabilities.
On a bright blue morning Alena and I met up at our local coffee shop for a quick breakfast before heading off to the airport. We were planning to complete a familiarization flight.
Her responsibilities on this adventure were few. Basically, her job was to experience flight up-close and personally to whatever degree she felt comfortable. On a familiarization flight the left seater is free to take the controls and fly, or just sight-see. Whatever works.
As we taxied I encouraged her to follow along on the controls, but she deferred. Totally understandable. She was in no rush to guide the airplane between rows of hangars. By the time we got through the run-up and held short of the runway, she was feeling a bit more aware of her surroundings and the nuances of operating an airplane.
I invited her to follow-through on the controls while I did the takeoff, and she did. We accelerated, rotated, began climbing. I saw that she was holding the yoke gently in both hands with no apparent concerns. So I let go, and at about 50 feet I let her know she was the one flying the airplane, to which she replied with great surprise, “I’m flying?”
It was an amazing moment.
We flew for nearly an hour, covering ground to the north and south of the airport. She flew for a good portion of the flight, but took the opportunity to sight-see as well. Being totally free of any responsibility other than to have fun, experience general aviation in action, and participate as much or as little as she felt comfortable, Alena made the most of her time with me in the Reimagined C-152.
Thanks to the magic of a GoPro camera, I was able to record the entire flight without introducing any distractions to the cockpit. The camera turned on before we taxied and turned off after we shut down. In between the camera rolled all on its own, with no input from me.
A half-hour of editing left me with slightly more than two minutes of highlights that I posted to Facebook. And this is where the power of what we general aviation pilots do really shines. Within 18 hours of posting that video, it had received nearly 2,000 views and seven other individuals had shared it.
The impact of that one flight was sweeping across the Internet, entertaining and enthralling people on at least two continents — leaving me to wonder how many of those who see the video come away thinking, “Well, if she can do it, maybe I can do it, too.”
That’s undeniably a general aviation success story.
You and I have the power to tell our story, to share the adventure and almost limitless freedom of being aloft in even the most modest of GA aircraft.
Thanks to the Internet we have the power to spread that joy internationally within a matter of hours, at most.
We can do this. We can inspire the next generation. We can show them their place in the left seat and put them in it either physically or vicariously.
In either case, GA is better off for the exposure, and the viewer gets a taste of just how much more vibrant and exciting life could be if only they flew!