From the Cockpit Part 38: Piper PA-28

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 38 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

Memory lane makes room for an airplane as Rankin straps into a Piper PA-28. It’s the same model plane that he flew when he first began his flight training almost 10 years ago, but he hasn’t stepped back into one since 2009. “Then I moved on to faster and shinier things,” he jokes. And the PA-28 looks a bit smaller than he remembers, but it’s all relative. “When you first fly a plane,” he says, “no matter how big it is, it feels intimidating.”

A utility and general aviation aircraft, the PA-28 has become a mainstay amongst flight schools and training programs since its introduction in 1960. One of the “honest” aircraft, in Rankin’s estimation, the PA-28 brings no fancy avionics or oddball quirks to the flight, instead simply delivering a steady and forgiving training platform for new pilots. More than 32,000 have been made, and it’s still in production.

In Introductory Flight School, Rankin and the other new pilots flew the PA-28 first to see who had the aviation instinct. Not everyone does, says Rankin, who sees the penchant for pilotage as something more akin to artistic talent. And Rankin can take all the music lessons in the world, but he’ll never be musical. “Aviation is much like that,” he says. “You have it and you can do it well, but some people just can’t wrap their heads around it.”

Taking off again from Ferguson Airport, the flight was uneventful but in good company. Flying with Lindsay Locke, a second lieutenant in the USAF, the pair charted a 40-minute flight looping west over Alabama, during which Locke shared her journey from budding classical pianist to Air Force pilot. “[Aviation] wasn’t even on her radar,” says Rankin, but when a local radio DJ heard Locke play and offered to take her flying in exchange for playing on his show, she was hooked.

It’s a feeling Rankin likely understands, especially touching down once more in the PA-28 after eight years of absence. It may have looked a bit smaller from the outside, but the experience was spot on. “Just like I remembered it,” he says.

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Ryan Rankin with the Piper PA-28. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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