As my eyes shifted between the instrument panel and the disappearing horizon, I was mindful of how intensely I was concentrating on getting the

Cessna 172 off the ground. I even remember taking a second or two to bask in that moment.

The pat on the back was short-lived, however, when the climbing Cessna started pitching a bit. My flight instructor, Mike Wrenn, told me over the headset it was normal turbulence, especially for a hot summer's day. He said when we got to about 6,500 feet, it would cool down and the ride would become much smoother.

My stomach fluttered a bit, and I heard him ask if I was OK.

I was OK, but I hadn't gotten the nerve yet to peek over my left shoulder and look down.

We still were climbing, and the Cessna was doing all the work now. Mike was barely holding the control yoke, and I was busy trying to decide what function all those instruments and gauges performed.

I took notice of the fact my flight instructor's hands weren't even grazing the controls, and when I relaxed a little, I realized I was flying a Cessna 172 -- almost all by myself.

Back on earth just a few minutes earlier, Mike had briefed me on the "discovery flight" I was about to take in a Northwest Aero Services office at Enid Woodring Regional Airport. He had explained basic pitch attitude, the use of trim and the fundamentals of a pre-flight inspection. Before we got buckled in the Cessna, he asked me if I was up for the task. I told him I was afraid of heights, but I was pretty much up for any challenge.

June is Learn to Fly Month, a promotion sponsored by the aviation community to promote aviation. Northwest Aero schedules introductory flights through the non-profit Be A Pilot program, also sponsored by the aviation community, for just $49.

My flight turned out better than I had anticipated. The first and last time I was in a small aircraft was about 15 years ago when my uncle took me up in a plane he shared with friends. I thought it was pretty cool when he briefly let me touch the control yoke.

This time I was more in control.

When we reached our cruising altitude, Mike instructed me to level the Cessna. Then, he had me make a right turn toward Enid. He told me I was doing great, and I felt in control. Mike was right, the air above the haze was cool and smooth.

Landmarks in Enid were easily identified. I saw Champlin Pool, Oakwood Mall and Wal-Mart Supercenter. I found my house, and I remembered hoping my infant daughter was enjoying a long afternoon nap.

I spotted the News -- Eagle office downtown and wondered what stories other reporters were working on. They couldn't have been nearly as exciting as mine.

As I turned the Cessna back to the east, Mike asked me to adjust the throttle for our descent. I was mindful of the fact that I hadn't yet touched that control. What if it was highly sensitive and a light adjustment of the throttle threw us into an irreversible nosedive?

But the truth is, Mike was in control the entire time. He was navigating us, checking instruments, pressure, speed and other devices helping keep us in the sky. And, although he trusted both Vance Air Force Base and Woodring air traffic controllers, he scanned the skies making sure we were safe from other air traffic.

He got me so relaxed I turned down his offer to land the aircraft, although I wish now I had tried.

A dozen clich?s about the freedom flying brings came to mind while I scanned the fields below and watched farmers maneuvering combines through nearly harvested wheat fields -- soaring like an eagle, flying like the wind.

It was truly a great experience.

"I got you to take off, do some turns," Mike said back at his office. "You found out it's not that bad."

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