Don’t forget to take the Dramamine before you fly… not after.

Shawn Arena

This article highlights the importance of a dialogue with your first time and even seasoned passengers before flying, a sort of pre-flight discussion. You should be prepared to inform them of all aspects of the upcoming flight, and don’t forget to ask them about any concerns or comments they may have prior to the flight as well, if not an unexpected surprise may pop up…as I found out during this experience!

All In the Name of Charity

In April 2000, my wife organized, coordinated, and supervised a charitable silent auction held at our special-needs eldest son Matthew’s school in the northwest Phoenix area. Titled “Miles of Smiles” this event was in its second year after a successful inaugural launch in 1999. Among all the neat and exciting things donated by local Phoenix businesses and sports teams (the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns), my wife had arranged with me to fly one lucky parent and their special needs child to Sedona Airport (SEZ) in northern Arizona for breakfast.

The lucky father Pete and his son Max were the winners for this adventure. After some coordination during the following week, Pete and I decided that May 6th would be the appropriate day. Now I must caution (or more likely advise) anyone who wishes to conduct a charity flight such as this to contact your local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) for proper authorization to conduct such flights. After proper coordination with the PRC FSDO, we were good to go. Additionally, when a pilot wishes to venture into the world of special needs individuals, focused attention on the individual (and caregiver) must be heeded because this more than likely will be something so foreign to them, you do not want any unintended consequences to occur that would endanger all occupants in the plane

Well at Least the Flight to Sedona Was Uneventful

Springtime in Arizona is a wonderful time to fly. It is the ‘hot’ time of year and has not yet reached the ‘hotter’ time, and weather conditions are very favorable. However, it must be noted, that it can be warm enough even in the morning hours, to prompt an early departure ahead of the warm-up of the day.

Departure from Glendale Airport (GEU), was uneventful, and our Cessna 172S (N234SP) purred like a kitten as we climbed and comfortably cruised at altitude. SEZ sits on a mountain mesa at 4,817 ft. MSL among one of the most picturesque areas in the world – Red Rock country. Max thoroughly enjoyed the flight, Pete while a bit apprehensive, also seemed to settle in nicely. My youngest son Andrew also came along for the ride. We landed on runway 03, taxied to the transient tiedown area, and were looking forward to a delicious breakfast.

You Should Have Said Something To Me Earlier

After breakfast, it was back into the plane and ‘literally downhill’ back to the Phoenix metro area. Just a few minutes into the flight, I thought I heard a noise from the back seat area and asked Andrew to look back to see what it could be… ”Max’s dad is throwing up Dad” was Andrew’s reply. Uh, oh I thought to myself, we better go to hyper speed to get home ASAP. “It’s OK dad, he’s upchucking in the diaper bag,” Andrew so eloquently informed me.

Now I am about to share something personal, and I don’t introduce myself as this, but I am a sympathetic puker! I thought “Oh, boy Shawn, just focus on listening to ATC and concentrate on flying the plane and getting back to GEU.” I instinctively told Andrew to turn all the air vents on his face and take deep breaths into them, as I did the same. The remaining hour of flight was tolerable, though I was concerned about how much of the backseat I had to clean up when we got home.

We touched down back at GEU and taxied (in my best Southwest Airlines brisk style) as I could and opened the doors and windows to help the air quality. To my amazement, there was not a drop in the back seat, for Pete (smartly) tied up the diaper bag to prevent any ‘air leakage.’

Walking back to the FBO office to turn in the keys I asked Pete if he was OK. Sheepishly and embarrassed, he said yes and then this pearl of wisdom came from his mouth…” I guess I should have taken the Dramamine before we left, instead of after breakfast.”

“What?“ I thought to myself as I figuratively wanted to choke the guy (but held back just in case any ‘residuals’ might come out). So calmly I told him, “Yes you should have AND you should have informed me you needed to take it before we left.”

Another Lesson Learned, This Time About Pre-Flight

So while “Pete’s adventure” was the lowlight of the flight, I too learned a valuable lesson. Remember that important pre-flight discussion I mentioned at the beginning of this article?

As part of my pre-flight routine, I now ask all passengers if they are prone to motion sickness BEFORE we get to the airport, so we can stop for counter-acting medication on the way. When I earned my Private Pilot Certificate, the FAA Examiner flippantly told me…” Now you have your license to learn.” Boy, how true that statement remains. Happy Flying!

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Featured Image: Simon Moores

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