Saw a microlight plane whizzing past as I was returning from a trip to Ras Al Khaimah over the Eid holidays.. On a lark, I drive down the dirt road and sign up for a 15 mins chakkar at the Jazirah Aviation Club, which has all the necessary government approvals. Heart thudding. Thought of running back to the safe confines of the car… After all, I did not know how to swim. And sea was very much a part of this trip.
But having forced my friend to sign up, my gargantuan ego forced me to sit smiling and examine the grey sky with what they call studied casualness. Ask for mint and sat ruminating on life, the universe and other random incidents.. We both choose the yellow planes. The control room said that there was a 30 percent chance of a storm alert.. Did I make a mistake? A group of five men are studying the brochures in the reception and debating whether to sign up..
Now there was no going back. I strap up.. The pilot says that the engine oil needs to warm up to above 50 degrees. I nod. He explains how the control panel works. I nod. Through the headphones, I can hear the control room conversations and his cheerful attempts to infuse me with some courage. But I am praying… So much for fantasies of flight while reading Richard Bach and St Exupery..
And we take off.. The earth slowly drops away. Vast expanse of sky all around and blue waters below. Air comes whooshing in from two small holes on the side. This is not an Emirates Airlines flight insulating me from the sky – with a small window showing me pretty clouds. This is a microlight that leaves me defenseless, exhilarated and suddenly aware that I need to start taking pictures and ignore the mild fearful twinges in my solar plexus.. I take the lens off my Nikon D60, which as you can see is a great camera considering I am an amateur photographer..
I steady my hand and understand the problems of photographers taking aerial shots. My pilot is describing the projects below. Their names. Wasted. Trying to be many things but the mind blanks and only the photographer in me remains.
He asks if I want to see some stunts. That is when I tell him in one outburst that I did not plan on this trip, I did have a huge breakfast an hour ago and to save that rush for the next trip when I would come back with just a slice of toast in moi.. and that’s that. Phew.. He laughs and shows me how to use the controls.. Even scarier. One of the most scariest things in my life and yet.. I did not want to stop.. tilted to the left, right, upwards and then nose-dived and he asked to go it solo… that was short though time seemed to slow down and I asked him to take over..
Vistas unfold.. projects, luxury villas, protected areas… RAK Free Zone.. The mind tries to grab at some anchor but the ground is far, far away…
15 mins later I experience the smoothest landing.. The five men are still looking at their brochures and ignore us.. Pointedly. I try to give them an encouraging smile but know just how they feel. And stagger back to the car with my friend.. knowing I will be back.. A five year old kid sits howling in the carpark. With the storm brewing in the sky, the parents are reluctant to send him up alone with just the pilot.. And microlights seat only two.. Mind it..