Monday, October 22, 2007
Flying to Saipan
Tinian 10/27/07 Trip to Saipan
Last weekend, with Terri off call at the hospital, we decided to go to Saipan to do some shopping and catch a movie.
One part of living on the islands that is the most fun is the chance to fly the puddle-jumpers from island to island. Freedom Air has two sizes of planes: a seven-seat (two seats in the back, three in the middle, and two in the front, which includes the pilot) and a smaller six-seat (two seats in the back, two in the middle, and two in the front, which includes the pilot). We have always flown the larger plane, but this time we flew the smaller plane.
It is so different flying a small prop plane! It flies lower, slower, so you get a real ‘feel’ of the plane as it cuts through the air. Every cross-wind and updraft can be felt as the little plane moves up and down or sideways. Often the plane will fly so slowly (compared to the jets we are used to) that it almost seems you are standing still. You get a close look at the island and ocean below you, and have time to recognize everything you see.
I remember a line in a movie/documentary we saw recently (which, I recommend for anyone, is ‘Little Dieter needs to fly’, about a pilot shot down in Viet Nam and his escape—it is a movie now, but the documentary/movie is much better), in which he describes an event that led to his desire to fly. During WWII an American pilot was on a bombing run and flew past his building. He said he could see the pilot so clearly—he was so close and moving so slowly—that the pilot waved to him as he passed. From that moment on ‘Little Dieter’ wanted to fly. I could not understand how someone could see a pilot that clearly—after all, planes fly fast! But now I understand. The smaller planes just don’t need the same amount of speed to fly.
The flight back was even more fun! There were storms all around, and we had to wait for a while for the weather to clear. When we finally took off you could see a large squall just moving in to the area. As soon as we were air born you could tell how windy and unstable the air was, as the plane moved sideways several feet and tipped. But we had a good pilot who quickly corrected the plane’s wings and off we went. We were forced to take a circuitous rout around the squall, and as we got to the other side, could see Tinian was relatively clear.
We were almost disappointed that the rough ride was over, as Terri and I were enjoying the bumpy ride, and thought the rest of our flight would be smooth. But that quickly changed as we started the approach to Tinian airport. Once again, the cross-winds began tossing the little plane around, sending us sideways and tipping the wings back and forth. For a moment I thought the pilot would pull up and try again, but he just kept correcting the flight path as we descended towards the runway. The landing was just slightly rougher than normal—I thought we would be bouncing down the runway—and then it was over. It was just great fun! In fact, now Terri wants me to take flying lessons…