Jimmy and the Cessna

I’ve always wanted to fly in a small plane. After the Bible Study Fellowship meeting we went to get some food. After a while a young man, Jimmy, came up to me. He was wearing a short-sleeved white shirt with pilot’s epaulettes. He is a flying instructor. I said I would love to go up in the air.

Five days later we, that is Phil, Max, Jimmy and I, were at Tamiami Airport, drinking Cuban coffee prior to flying to Key West. I was somewhat apprehensive. We went to the plane and then considered how to get me into it. This required strength and ingenuity on the part of all of us. Max and Phil did a great job getting me into the seat. Somehow they fitted my wheelchair into the storage space, and themselves into the rear seats. 

   
 It was interesting for me to sit in a 40-year old plane next to a 22-year old pilot, who I met once in a bar, and to have a flight ahead of me. Headsets on, prop gets going, air traffic control, taxi, down the runway and we’re in the air. Wow, this is a small plane, with one propellor. Up to 4,500 and over the Everglades, then south and along the Florida Keys. 

   
    
   
‘You want to fly the plane?’ I took the stick and slowly pulled it back. The nose went up, and after a tap on the shoulder pushed the stick forwards. Back to level flying! It felt good to fly the plane, trying to keep it level and make one or two turns. We flew one mile north of Highway 1, and saw a weather balloon and over flew a military air base. Jimmy took the controls and landed at Key West airport. We were marshalled in, just like the big planes, and welcomed to Key West. Max and Phil helped me out and into the wheelchair. Then onto a minibus taxi to get something to eat. More pushing and pulling.

   
   
There were a couple of things related to ventilation which made me laugh. When in then sky air comes in through a hole in a plastic vent (see photo). When on the ground, the air does not come through the hole because the plane is stationery or moving slowly. Therefore the passenger in the rear uses his or her foot to keep the door open (see photo).

   
 We ate by the water, I called Jane and she gave me the news from home. A tour around Key West left me a little cold; been to so many places, so many things in my head, and I needed the toilet (a major pre-occupation these days). 

  
We had to remember how to get me in the Cessna. We remembered, then we had to do it. We did it. It was cloudy on the way back, and that made the trip interesting and different. Do you know how it feels to be next to a young person in such control? Great.

   
    
   
We thanked Jimmy for an amazing day. Relieved? Well, yes, but we were in safe hands. 

   
  

Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

3 thoughts to “Jimmy and the Cessna”

  1. Your bravery astounds me – I able bodied, well sort of, and I would struggle to match you – well done you! The crying – it happens – my brothers are the same – keep strong – I hope you and your wonderful family enjoy Christmas and the New Year. xx

  2. What an amazing journey Andrew, I am scared of heights but in the 1980’s when I worked on Hamilton Island I flew in a small plane like that to Mackay to buy groceries! Flying over the beautiful whitsunday islands was a wonderful experience one I will never forget! so happy that you have great friends to enjoy that with ! x

Leave a Reply