After a week of utterly painful patience, my wife and I were finally able to get up in the air this morning, undertaking our first flight together with my new private pilot’s license.

This flight has been months in the making, paraphrasing one of the first “Jonathan Jokes” he ever made to me in ground school: lift doesn’t make a plane go up, money does.

To get to this point it’s taken:

  • Ground school: $300
  • 53.2 hours of instruction in the plane: $8086.4
  • 3.5 hours of instruction in the sim: $350
  • 26.3 hours of solo work: $3997.6
  • 1.5 checkrides: $525

Not counting charts, books, or some of the 1-on-1 ground prep work for the checkride: $13,259

Originally we had planned to fly to Petaluma to grab some food, but high winds on the field (gusting to 18 knots!) changed our plans and we flew south to Watsonville.

The flight to Watsonville was rather uneventful, with some light turbulence on the way. Demonstrating to myself that I’m still not a nitwit, I even entered the pattern correctly, on the correct side of the airport!

Once on the ground, we realized we had arrived to early to eat at the on-field restaurant. Instead we went to the bathroom, grabbed a drink, took a picture and departed.

Private Pilot, on the ground in Watsonville

On the ground before departing Watsonville

As I usually do whenever I’m flying somewhere, or when I don’t have my instructor’s well-trained eyes, I picked up flight following from NorCal on the trip back. NorCal and their fancy radar scopes, workload permitting, would help me look for other traffic in the busy airspace above the bay area.

For the most part, this means I’m getting a heads up on wake turbulence from the larger jets on approach to San Jose, Oakland, or San Francisco International Airports. Just north of Morgan Hill at 4,500ft, I get the call:

Seven-three-three Papa-victor, traffic at 12 o’clock, 2 miles at 4,300ft. Suggest immediate turn to 250 if you don’t have him in sight

You don’t have to tell me twice! “Left turn, two five zero.” I figure my passenger won’t mind a 30 degree banked turn, given the circumstances. We swing over immediately, giving her (apparently) a good view of the on-coming traffic. We weren’t “I’m going to have a number for you to call when you land” close (i.e. somebody busted regulations), but we were definitely too close to not have one another in sight.

We saw a number of other small planes in the air while we were flying, but that was the only plane that I didn’t see, but I really wish I would have.

The remainder of the flight back into Hayward wasn’t nearly as eventful, which is by no means a bad thing. Approaching the field, the winds were 10 knots straight down the runway. Descending towards the runway I enter the flare, we float more than I’m happy with. I give it a little more throttle and set the plane down with one of the most gentle landings I’ve ever made.

On the ground, I asked my wife how she felt about the flight, and the notion of this expensive hobby I had acquired. Fortunately for both of us, she enjoyed the trip and asked on the drive back home “so where are we flying to next?”

Some people spend their weekends tail-gating, some go camping or hiking. I’m happy to say that we’ve joined a small group of people who spend their weekends, just casually flying around, no big deal.