We just got back from an aerial tour of the Tokyo/Yokohama area in a little Cessna 172, 4-seater plane…and it was incredible! This was the first time I’ve ever been in a little tiny plane like that, and it sure didn’t disappoint. Jaime is a member of the Aero Club on base (a club for people with their private pilots license), where she is able to reserve time slots to either fly or be taken on a tour of the area. We pulled up to the hangar at 4:00, and our pilot/instructor, Leon, had the plane checked out and ready to fly. I told him that I’d always been interested in getting my private license one day, so he agreed to give me some basic instructions and let me fly the plane a little bit. As we taxied out onto the runway, my heart was pounding a little bit. I was doing my best to keep the plane on a straight line by using the foot pedals to steer, but I’m sure if anyone was looking down on the plane from above, it would have resembled a little kid trying to color inside the lines without having any luck. Anyways, we got to the runway, dialed up the airspeed, waited until it hit 60 knots, slowly pulled back on the steering wheel and the plane easily lifted off the ground and into the air. It seemed so simple, yet Leon was doing most of the work so I think I’m a little overconfident in my skills right now. As we gained altitude and gradually banked left, back towards Tokyo, the mountains surrounding the area came into view through a slight haze. Apparently, on clear days Mt. Fugi is visible in the distance, but we weren’t able to make it out.
Once we leveled off around an altitude of 3,000 feet, Leon turned the controls over to me and let me fly for about 15-20 minutes. I was banking left and right, nosing up and down and generally having a blast. The sun was slowly sinking behind us, casting a beautiful golden glow over everything we saw. We soared down to the coast, then turned north towards Yokohama. Leon took control and descended to an altitude of about 1,500 feet, giving us an incredible view of the coast, neighborhoods, parks and skyscrapers below. We flew over Yokohama and its GIANT ferris wheel and then cruised around the two Tokyo Towers. Leon pointed on the Imperial Palace, Roppongi and Shinjuku districts. We’d just gone into Tokyo last night, so it was incredible to see the city from the air as well. After the short tour of Tokyo, Leon headed straight into the setting sun and back to the Yokota Air Base at Fussa. It was such an amazing opportunity, and I’m so grateful to Jaime for setting it up for us. Flying is such an experience. I think the old Greek inventor Daedalus had the right idea by creating wings made out of wax and feathers. If only his son hadn’t been so careless as to fly to close to the sun, melting his wax and eventually leading to his demise, the idea of a human with wings might be a reality today! Most of all, I now know that I MUST get my pilot license someday soon! It’s only a matter of time.