A few moments later, after I completed the first oval, a gust of wind jerked the ParaPlane sideways and the cart began to swing, as it is supposed to, like a pendulum. My heart began to swing with it. The wind had picked up, and I had to work to hold a straight course. I didn't have much more time for sightseeing.
Femia coached me through a 360-degree turn and away from the runway well before a plane took off with another batch of sky divers. I felt my grip on the seat loosen, and I even managed a decent wave as I passed over the other students in my group. It was time to land.
"I want you to steer to the center of the runway," said Femia. "Aim for Joe with the orange paddles. Reduce power just a hair. That was a couple of hairs, but that's O.K. Aim right for me. Don't touch the throttle now. Let the plane land itself. Keep yourself straight. When all three wheels hit the ground, cut your power and push both levers forward."
The orange paddles got bigger. The ground came up, slowly. I touched down smoothly, rolled forward for a short distance, cut the engines, and pushed hard on both levers, deflating the chute. I was glad to be down.
It was only when I handed the helmet to Jeff that I realized I hadn't once glanced at the altimeter. Five hundred feet? Six hundred feet? Who cares? I flew.