“Trust your instruments”
About 30 years ago I was a pilot. A student pilot really. While I had enough flight hours to get my license, college got in the way and I never obtained the ticket. But I did get to experience many cool things most pilots experience at least one time or another. Soloing. Taking off and landing in front of, and behind, jumbo jets in a little single engine prop. Stalling. Flying without power. And even vertigo.
Yep, I was flying with my instructor on a night-time cross country flight just south of Indianapolis. My head was buried in the dimly lit cockpit studying the sectional maps. I looked up quickly to check my bearings and saw the bright red flashing lights of a TV tower. It suddenly felt like we were heading in a nose down position racing toward what I thought were runway lights. I panicked. “Helen!” I screamed at my instructor, “We’re going down!”
Cool headed Helen told me to look at my instruments and to trust my instruments. Meticulously, but quickly, she took me from left to right across the instrument panel.
“110 knots,” I replied with great fear.
“Trust your instruments. Attitude?”
“Straight and level,” I said with some surprise.
“3700 feet,” I answered looking out the window still seeing the red lights that were no longer there. “Helen!”
“Trust your instruments. Vertical Speed?”
“Zero. So we’re not going up or down? See? Trust your instruments.”
Something about hearing that phrase for the third time. It was then that I snapped out of the vertigo experience.