We were flying from the Vava’u Group in Tonga to the Haap’ai Group, where we had arrangements to take a boat to an uninhabited island, Ouleva.
At the airport, as we walked out to our small 8-seater plane, I noticed the pilot was actually out on the nose of the plane cleaning the windshield!
A few minutes later, I was standing outside waiting my turn to go up the stairs into the plane, when the pilot came over, pulled me aside, and said,
“Will you be my co-pilot?”
“Oh no, I’m not a pilot!” I exclaimed in total shock at his suggestion that I could fly an airplane, or even assist anyone in flying an airplane!
“That’s ok,” he said, “I’ll show you what to do. My co-pilot didn’t show up, and I need a co-pilot. Go ahead and get seated in the cockpit.”
“Ok…,” I said, weakly.
Registering this as reality was going to take a few minutes.
I walked slowly up the steps. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God!
Suddenly, I felt excited! This was going to be amazing!
As I nonchalantly waltzed past T already seated on the plane, and as he was getting up to let me sit beside him, I told him that I was going to be the co-pilot.
“Yeah right.” he says.
When I proceeded down the aisle and seated myself in the cockpit, he was totally shocked.
Then, thinking I was teasing, he came up to the cockpit a few minutes later to get me, whispering, “Ok, the pilot is coming…!”
“No, for real.” I said. “The pilot asked me!” He could see that my face was lit up in enthusiasm. With a look of astonishment at first, then envy, I saw that he was both incredulous and a little jealous as he walked back to his seat.
The pilot boarded the plane then, walked down the aisle, and pausing beside me, said, “Ummm, that’s my seat – the co-pilot sits in the other seat.”
Oh no! How could I be so dumb? I was completely embarrassed! The pilot was smiling, ever so slightly.
He sat down, and started giving me instructions.
Before I knew it we were taking off. What a rush!!!
As we were taking off, I noticed that my small angle side window was partly open. Panicking, and anxious to be a good co-pilot, I asked if I should close it.
“No, it’s ok. I’ll tell you when to close it in a few minutes.” he said.
I started to relax. The views were incredible!
Everywhere I looked… the ocean was dotted with lush green islands frilled by white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons. I wanted to stay up there forever.
Before I knew it the pilot pointed out the landing strip as it came into view far in the distance.
As it it got closer, I started getting nervous. What if the pilot suddenly couldn’t land the plane?!
I would be expected to land it!
Oh my God!!!
I looked over at the pilot, and he was smiling as if he knew exactly what I was thinking.
Ok, the pilot will be able to land the plane. Whew.
But it was so thrilling to watch as we approached the runway, closer and closer….
And touching down….
I helped fly a plane and I’m not even a pilot!
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