We had the plane scheduled from 12:00 to 17:00. I walked from the cottage out by the pool into their home. Jo had already left for the day and Rachel was preparing to meet a friend. I had a late start that morning. I had taken a little time to write. After breakfast the three of us were ready. I was spending the day with Julien and Grant. Julien is a pilot and Grant is his father. They are kind enough to let me visit with them for my last few days in Brisbane. I would find out later that they both share the knack of sharing fulfilling conversation. They are those kind of people that don’t open their mouths unless there is something that needs to be said. We talked at great lengths that day.
Julien had to do a pre-flight check on the plane. It is going to take about 30 minutes. If you would like to grab a bite to eat there is a Subway around the corner. As Grant and I pulled up I noticed a bakery on the left. After my excitement about meat pies became known we were soon sitting at a table inside the bakery. I had a beef curry meat pie. I had hoped it would be more spicy, but that seems to be recurring theme. Things aren’t as spicy in Australia as they are in America. Regardless the meat pie was devoured. I simply love those things. Grant and I discussed life. It was a refreshing conversation with advice given from someone who was experienced and patient enough to give it. I enjoyed it. The 30 minutes went by quickly.
I have to go through a safety review with you. Just like they do on a commercial airline. As Julien went through his review of the airplane to Grant and I he immediately fell into a natural role. He has done this before. His confidence, familiarity, and purposeful explanation made me instantly feel like I was in good hands. This was going to be a great experience and I knew it. Watch your head when you get out of the plane. The designers were nice enough to put the exhaust pipe right next to the door. It will be hot.
There was no air conditioning in the twin-engine plane. Instead there are several tubes that protrude into the cabin from the outside. The wind enters through the tubes and that is how you remain cool. Buttons were flicked and knobs adjusted. I was briefly told what everything is. I wish I could remember it, but I never felt I needed to. I remembered the one instruction that seemed the more important of them all. Don’t touch anything. Julien called out of the window and started the left engine. More pressing, flicking, and adjusting. Another call out of the window. The right engine near me came to life. A sputter and a clean crack and then a slow rhythmic hum. Everything was purposeful and clean. I felt that I knew that I was in a solid plane. This plane had been well kept. I found out later that this particular plane had received new engines recently. A$40,000 each. They are replaced every 2,000 flight hours and this was the 5th time that they had been replaced.
The distinctive beat of the engines became faster. The small holes in the window became to have air pushed through them. The plane was coming to life. Julien spoke and an unknown voice responded. More pressing, and turning. The runway began to move below us effortlessly. We felt light. It felt like we were floating along the runway as we taxied down the stretch. We pulled up behind a plane that had stopped. A strange plane that I had never seen. Big enough for two or three people. It looked like an enthusiasts plane. Another plane came in from the left and touched down directly in front of the enthusiast. A brief moment and the enthusiast was gone. We began to roll forward.
We moved to the end of the runway and turned around on the spot. I would find out later the runway was shorter than most. I recall it being around 700/km and others in the area are closer to 1000/km. As Julien spoke a strange dialect into his headset the unknown voice responded. I was in awe. I remember being a child in a toy store and not feeling this kind of excitement. I hadn’t even realized we were moving. I had been distracted by thunderous yet welcoming engine to my right, the design of the cabin and the instrument panel, and the massive concrete slab that stretched before us. I saw the planes shadow. It was larger than my vision and wrapped around from left to right. Suddenly it began to distort as I watched the runway passing below us. The shadow began to float upward and the runway rapidly disappeared. Our shadow became smaller and smaller and suddenly I noticed the large planes sitting idle below had become tiny miniatures. The pace of my heart beat increased for a moment and I brought my eyes forward as they were met by the clouds above.