Flying high in the South Georgia skies

FOX 31's Matt Prichard takes to the skies in a FOX 31 feature story, "Learning to Fly." / Matt Prichard

We've all sat at 30,000 feet and felt a bump in the air. All to often that's followed by a message from your captain telling you to "sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride."

Pilots are one of the worlds great mysteries, we expect them to do the impossible. Take 150 people, lift them up into the air and get them back down in one piece.

Last week I decided to solve this mystery by taking some flying lessons in a FOX 31 exclusive feature, "Learning to Fly."

Step one was finding a teacher, which turned out to be Mike Cochran. Cochran has been flying for years, and currently teaches aviation maintenance at South Georgia Technical College in Americus, GA. Despite having years of experience under his belt, Cochran says that childhood infatuation with flight has never left.

"Every kid in every playground runs around with their arms out like they're gonna fly, whether they're thinking they're like a bird, or like an airplane, there's just a thrill of flight," said Cochran.

So he began teaching me the inner workings of an aircraft, and surprinsgly, an airplane isn't much more than a car with wings. You still check the oil, fill it up with gas, and turn a key to get started. From there is where things get a bit different.

While taxiing down the runway, I found that turning the wheel in my hands did little to keep me in a straight line, but a push of my right or left foot would slide us back and forth. This was the first thing that caught my attention, to taxi, take-off, and land an airplane you used your feet and nothing else.

Jerking the plane onto the runway we were ready for take-off. I let Cochran take control and soon we were up in the air where suddenly the wheel became a bit more important. Cochran handed the controls off and gave me the opportunity to do what every little kid wants to do, fly a plane.

"There's a big adrenaline rush going through em', they've gotta overcome that, and come back to reality, and understand they have the plane, they are, everything that is happening, they are in control of," said Cochran.

But it can't be all fun and games, Cochran says the most difficult part of flying is bringing that bird back to the ground.

"It's really hard to land, the landing is hard to know when to flare, how high above the ground are you, you can't get too slow, you can't be too fast," said Cochran.

Back on the ground I realized that anyone with the skill to fly these giant machines are worthy of my trust, so the next time I hit a rough pocket of air, I'll just "sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride."