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Flying high over Falcon

The thought of flying scared me: far off the ground and no control. But I accepted the assignment: “Take a flight over Falcon and write about it.”Tracy Tomlinson, owner of Free as a Bird Inc., has been flying ultralight airplanes for the past six years. He started his flying career with hang gliders and upgraded to ultralights.A registered flight instructor with the United States Ultralight Association and the Aero Sports Connection, he provides ultralight instruction and introductory flights in his ultralight trainer from the Meadow Lake Airport. He offered a free flight in support of my assignment.”Err to the side of caution,” Tracy said, in his first phone call to me the morning of our scheduled flight. It was a bit breezy and he didn’t want to take any chances. We decided to reschedule. When I got a second call from him that morning, I was a bit surprised. The wind had died down, and he wanted to try (flying is a hobby that requires patience).I met him at Meadow Lake Airport a little after 8 a.m. June 22. A little anxious about the flight, I wanted to know every emergency feature available and was happy to know there was a parachute that held the whole plane, just in case.The two seats in Tracy’s ultralight trainer had the same appearance to me as a motorcycle, with the back seat much higher than the front. The wing of the ultralight looks like the wing of a hang glider, but it’s designed to hold more weight. The two-cycle engine on Tracy’s aircraft is actually a 95 horsepower snow mobile engine that enables him to cruise up to 70 mph.After the quick rundown, I was ready for flight.We waited our turn to take off, observing one plane touch and go and another take off in front of us. When it was our turn, Tracy said, “Are you ready?” I took a few deep breaths and off we went, with my stomach turning and my heart beating like a drum.Going up was like a combination of an airplane and a helicopter taking off.I didn’t want to miss anything so I tried to keep my eyes open. We turned east and then north, and, as I peeked through an almost closed eye, I could see Big R and just to the north the new high school. Before I knew it, we were right above my house. We could see my husband and two boys madly waving their arms at us.As we headed north to the Meridian Ranch subdivision, we climbed to an altitude of about 1,350 feet. Heading east I began to loosen up and take pictures of the terrain below. When I stopped shooting to take in the view, Tracy gave me the wheel. I guess he thought I was ready to fly on my own. I didn’t do too bad for my first time, but I was relieved when Tracy took the wheel from me.Our flight took us over Peyton, then south. As we turned west, I was in awe of the beauty of Pikes Peak – able to truly understand the meaning of “purple mountains majesty.”And flying had captures my senses.Thoughts of almost nothing under my feet, the wind blowing my hair and a feeling of weightlessness were inspiring, thrilling and peaceful all at the same time.After an exhilarating hour-long flight over Falcon and the eastern plains of Colorado, it was time to land.Landing was as easy as taking off. Once on the ground, I looked at Tracy and smiled. I had survived and honestly enjoyed myself. No more shaky hands, no more queasy stomach. I was excited, hoping that someday I would get the opportunity to go up again.And I am no longer afraid to fly.

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