By Quinn Slayton
Director, Resource Development, United Way of the Greater Seacoast
Used by permission from United Way of the Greater Seacoast

Quinn SlaytonHands down, one of the coolest things I’ve ever done happened to me recently: I got to pilot the KC-135 flight simulator at the Pease Air National Guard Base with the 157th Air Refueling Wing. Like, whoa.

If I were to make a list of the top 10 best moments of my life this would fall somewhere between meeting Edward James Olmos and meeting my husband.

Imagine an unlimited budget for the best video game you’ve ever played combined with the most terrifying amusement park ride you’ve ever been on. It sounds like a wish a 12 year old would make while blowing out the birthday candles, but the KC-135 flight simulator was exactly like playing Skyrim on Space Mountain.

This once in a lifetime opportunity was given to me thanks to being a member of the 2013 Leadership Seacoast class, an experiential learning program for those who want to discover how their communities function and how they can become a positive catalyst for change.

Leadership Seacoast’s relationship with the 157th Air Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard goes way back. Not only does the ANG send their own people to be in the class every year, they also provide a hands-on opportunity for class members to experience what they do. Past Leadership Seacoast classes have had the privilege of riding with these brave men and women on an actual air-refueling mission.

If you’re not familiar with the KC-135 refueling plane and what it does, then by all means, go read Wikipedia, because my description sounds like a 2nd grader.

Okay so, basically this gigantic airplane goes up in the air, right? And this other plane flies up right under it, and then, AND THEN, this pilot guy lowers a giant gas pump down to the other plane WHILE IN THE AIR.

Because of budget cuts and restrictions, my class didn’t get to go up in the air this year. And that is why I and a few others got to try our hand at flying one of these beasts in the flight simulator. The simulator is used to train pilots of the ANG in a less expensive and safer environment before they’re ready for real thing. According to our instructors, the simulator is as close to real life as you can get.

Having never ever flown a plane in my life, you can imagine how nervous I was to take the controls of the world’s most expensive video game. I was surprised by how much every teeny move you make affects the movement of the plane. I was also surprised by how heavy the controls and the plane feel. This ain’t no bicycle ride, my friends.

Needless to say, I crashed the plane on landing. But thanks to the magic of a reset button, all my failures were erased. Wouldn’t that be nice if we could do that with all our mistakes?

So, what does this have to do with Q-Tips and working in development at United Way?

Nothing. I just wanted to brag a little bit about how awesome my life is.