Taking Flight in Cincinnati

My husband, Ryan, is one of those guys who is tough to surprise and shop for. He’s low maintenance and always enjoys experiences more than gifts. Of course, I’m always trying to find ways to spoil him, so I was excited when I discovered the Lunken Flight Training Center when I was searching for the perfect Christmas gift for him last year. Like me, Ryan loves to travel – and he not only travels recreationally, but also travels frequently for work. He had been joking that with as much as he travels, he should probably just buy a plane, so what could be better than giving him an introductory flight lesson? I purchased the gift certificate online, and Ryan was totally blown away!

Ryan scheduled his pioneer flight on one of the first beautiful spring days we had in Cincinnati. Lunken Flight Training Center (LFTC) is near Ultimate Air Shuttle’s facility in historic Lunken Airport – easy to locate and park. We buzzed in and were greeted by John Fanselow, LFTC’s Chief Flight Instructor. He was very welcoming, kicking off Ryan’s lesson with a tour of the center, including a look at their classrooms and flight simulator, plus a tour of the historic hangar (where American Airlines originally got their start). In the hangar, John showed us the different parts of the plane and how it worked, giving Ryan an introduction before we left the ground.

Then we went out to the tarmac to take a look at the plane Ryan would be flying – a Cessna 172S. John did a safety check and walked Ryan through how the plane operates. Then, it was time for takeoff! I opted to take my life in my hands and sit in the backseat of the Cessna during the lesson. I’m so glad I did!

John was responsible for takeoff, although Ryan drove the plane on the runway, which he said was a really unique experience – it’s nothing like driving a car. You steer with your feet, not with your hands, and the pedals used to steer the plane move in different directions. You push them to steer right or left, and you tilt them forward to brake. Crazy!

Before we knew it, we were in the air, and John was passing the controls over to Ryan. In the air, you use the wheel to steer – but it’s still nothing like driving a car. The wheel goes right and left, but you have to bring it back to center after you turn (otherwise, you flip the plane). The wheel also goes in and out to increase or decrease altitude.

While Ryan was focused on flying, I was snapping photos. It’s so cool to see Cincinnati from the sky! We flew over so many landmarks – it was incredible!

John said that if you can find your house from the air, it’s a sign that he can teach you how to become a pilot. Ryan and I had no trouble at all finding our roof in the sea of houses as we flew over Hyde Park.

After flying over some of the east side neighborhoods, we headed downtown to take in the skyline. What an awesome photo op!

Clearly, Ryan didn’t land the plane – otherwise, I wouldn’t be here to write this.  John took back the reigns when we approached Lunken for landing. Ryan described the experience as exhilarating – and that’s the perfect word, whether you’re the pilot or the passenger. After we landed and de-planed, John signed Ryan’s flight log, documenting his time for his very first lesson.

If you’re terrified of small planes, this obviously may not be the activity for you. However, our flight was very smooth, as we had a beautiful day – and apparently, Ryan was a natural. As John explained, flying a plane is much like sailing a boat – there are waves in the air that you have to navigate. I wasn’t scared at all and we had a complete blast, enjoying every single second from takeoff to landing.

It takes a lot of time and money to get your pilot’s license, but if you’re interested in giving it a go – even if only for one Pioneer flight – LFTC is the place to do it.

Until next time,