From my earliest days, I wanted to fly.
As a youngster, I was fortunate to fly commercially before airliners became nothing more than airborne buses and coats and ties were de rigueur. Flights in Lockheed Electras, Convair 440s, Boeing 707s and DC-8s had me glued to the window as the earth fell away during takeoff. Back then, cockpit tours for kids were a must, and the stewardesses (as they were called then) ALWAYS had wing pins for their young passengers.
Balsa wood, tissue paper and dope models followed, as did subscriptions to every flying magazine I could get my hands on. Dad took me to airshows at Pt. Magu where I saw the incomparable Bob Hoover in his Aero Commander Shrike perform a complete aerobatic routine with both engines silent.
My best friend’s grandfather took us up for a ride in a Piper Tri-Pacer out of Van Nuys airport and later a Piper Apache; his dad took us up in a Cessna 310 … the stage was set.
But priorities changed. Sailing, then cars and girls in high school, more sailing in college and a first marriage kept my aviation dreams at bay. But then in 1993, the planets aligned and an opportunity presented itself that was simply too good to pass up … a close friend had an opportunity to buy an old Cessna 150 for $9,000 – a bargain! – did I want in? Absolutely! Another friend had just received his Certified Flight Instructor certificate and would train me in exchange for the flight time. Deals were made, checks written and the airplane was ours.
My logbook tells the story. My first lesson was on April 6, 1993 in a Cessna 172 when we went to pick up the plane. Mike flew it back. I soloed just three months later with only 18 hours logged! I passed my private pilot checkride on March 21, 1994. Bigger and faster airplanes followed and in December 2001, I passed the checkride for my Instrument Rating.
It all stopped in 2003. I moved east and when the promise of a new job failed to materialize the finances to fly just weren’t there, and then life ensued. The dream faded but never went away. A new, but short-lived job with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association threw new sparks on the fire, but my then-wife wasn’t a flyer … it wasn’t a priority.
Fast forward to 2012 when the woman of my dreams enters my life … and she wants to fly! Judy not only supported my dreams, but wanted her dreams of flight to be realized. For a wedding present, I got her a logbook of her own and an introductory lesson. On a cold day in January, I watched her take off for the first time at the controls. Later that summer, I, too, was back in an airplane with a new medical certificate in hand and an instructor putting me through the flight review paces. It took a few flights – I was definitely rusty, but it all came back and my instructor signed me off. I was back in the air!
A week ago, I was again signed off by an instructor to fly one of my favorite airplanes, a Piper Arrow, and later this year, I hope to regain my Instrument Rating currency. In the meantime, Judy and I are planning many flights together.
Today is National Aviation Day…a day to celebrate why we fly and our nation’s long history of flight. I am incredibly thankful to live in a country that affords me this opportunity…but it is an opportunity that is being put at risk by Congressional legislation to privatize our Air Traffic Control system. This move will make private aviation too costly for all but the richest folks and put control of ATC in the hands of the airlines that do NOT have your interests at heart. Thousands will lose their jobs and critical infrastructure served by general aviation will be lost.
If you have ever, even once, thought about taking a flying lesson, enjoyed a scenic flight, taken a flight with a friend to another airport for a “$100 Hamburger,” I ask you to do two things: 1) Write or call your representatives in Congress and tell them to Modernize, not Privatize, our ATC system, and 2) Book a flight with an instructor TODAY and see for yourself what joy flying brings! If you need some advice, contact me…I’m always happy to talk flying.
There’s a whole world out there, waiting to be explored…see it from the front seat!
Why does flying always make me want to write? It’s odd, but soaring over this great nation at 34,000 feet stirs something in my brain that gets my poetic juices flowing.
Our co-pilot just welcomed us aboard and, uncharacteristically gave us the route with landmarks … between Cincinnati and Lexington … right over Louisville, over St. Louis, just north of Albuquerque, then right over the Grand Canyon. I can’t help but dream of clear skies the whole way. Flying over the heartland, gazing down over the Ohio and Mississippi rivers before crossing the wintry gray Plains of the southern “amber waves of grain”. They will be followed by the mysterious gray crevasses as we enter the west and peer into the depths of the Grand Canyon from our lofty aerie.
It’s all majestic and every bit “home.” Flying makes me feel American. It is hours over one great country. It is the epitome of freedom and adventure. It stirs my curiosity and reminds me how many things I still want to see. It is small towns, big cities and vast expanses of wilderness. It’s people headed to work, students off to classrooms everywhere, stay-at-home mom’s, the unemployed … every type of person imaginable. It’s joy and sadness. It is everything and, somehow, up here in the air, it is nothing.
Greg dozes comfortably next to me as the flight crew offers movie-loaded tablets for rent before beginning the first beverage service. A five hour flight means we will get two runs of the drink cart. Our upgraded seats mean we can look forward to a snack box. But the major draw is the view. We take turns in the window seat and it’s my turn this time around.
As the captain suggested, I’ll lean back and enjoy the flight, after all, there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored (or at least viewed).