In Charlotte, the Metrolina Association for the Blind (MAB) hosted an anual summer camp that was designed to get blind children thinking about where they would fit into the business and social world. To this end, they would often have themes that ran throughout the four weeks or so of day sessions on the bottom floor of their facility.
This particular year's theme was transportation. Examples of what we learned were: honing a restaurant to ask for directions from the nearest bus stop, actually locating and boarding a bus and getting off at a destination, boarding a commercial airliner and speaking with the pilots, and other things. Without a doubt, this was my favorite year at that summer camp, and it probably has much to do with my continued enjoyment of travel to this day.
The highlight of that period was to be a trip up in a small four-seat plane. I can't now recall which kind it was, but I guess some type of cesna. This took place at some sort of Christian organization that I think was called JARS. They flew supplies into small African countries that were donated here in the United States. We got to see some of these things, including a player that aided vilagers in learning their local language. This had a little crank that you turn in order to make it play. It was made out of clear plastic, so that the people could see what was going on inside of it and would thus resist the urge to smash it on the rocks to investigate how it worked. They also showed us a device that you use to, I think, administer electric shock after a snake bite. This supposedly helped you to gain enough time to get medical attention before the venom had fully taken effect.
They had quite an impressive fleet of aircraft, some of them having been put into service in 1954. This took place in 1994, four years after my first ever flight to Los Angeles California.
Both my cousin and I almost missed out on the short plane ride, because for some odd reason we hadn't gotten out folks to sign the permission slip. I can't remember if, and this was likely, we were just too shy to ask, or if we'd just lost the paperwork.
As the engine fired up with the first round of kids and I sat there with a pack of oreo cookies in my lap and an ice-cold coke in my hand, I began to feel sad at the prospect that I would indeed be left out. And when the initial group stumbled back toward us, excitedly chattering away, I knew I had to go. The second group went up and came back down, and after that, the adults said "alright, it's your turn!" "But we didn't bring our slips," I replied sadly. "Ah, don't worry about that". I knew there'd be some kind of insurance issue if that bad boy went down, but well they didn't want us to miss that opportunity, and I suppose they deemed such a horrifying conclusion to be unlikely.
So we strapped in and buckled up. I was amazed at how different it felt. It was like being in a car. As the guy in front fired up the engine again he said "now this won't be like the flight you took on the big plane. Any blowing of the wind, and this thing's gonna buck like a bronco!" I tried to imagine what that would be like as we taxied onto the strip, roared up to full power, and rose off of the ground. For reasons unknown to me, I felt the need to shout "we in the air!", I guess just in case they hadn't noticed.
It was quite loud by this point, and I was enjoying every second of it. We seemed to be sliding in all directions, up, down, back, forward, and side to side. We reached a maximum altitude of 900 feet, did a few fly-arounds of the immediate area, and touched down. It was such a neat contrast to what I'd experienced previously, and I've not had the fortune of experiencing it again.