Monday, December 27, 2010


Flying, now there is a subject I enjoy! I have had a life long attachment to airplanes and aviation.
It became serious after my first ride with a friend of the family in his Mooney Mark 20. It was a short flight from Kalamazoo to Battle Creek, but I was hooked after that. I can recall pulling his plane out of the hanger on Saturday mornings and washing it until it was spotless. Just hanging around the airport was almost a religious experience on those week ends!! In high school I got involved with the Civil Air Patrol. We had an old Aeronca Champ that we would slap ski's under in the winter. The plane was a "beater" but it flew, and that was all that mattered. Some years later, I got a severe case of "middle age crazies", and at 40 decided to get my pilots license, then I could fly legally! As luck would have it, I drew the flight instructor that was known as "the perfectionist", and he was! There were many times I wanted to open the door of the "172" and kick him out the side, especially after making a squeaker of landing, so I thought, and having him rant about being a foot off of the center line of the runway!! He was tough, but a good instructor. I soloed at 13 hours, rather than the usual 20, as I had been flying over the previous years, not legally of course! The day finally came when I had amassed the 40 hours of time required by the FAA, to take my flight test. The written part was easy, but the flight test with the FAA examiner, was what washed out many folks dream of flying. I made the appointment with the guy for the following Saturday. I couldn't wait to get to the airport, fuel and pre-flight the plane. I would have to fly 60 miles to pick him up, do the test, and fly home. I had never met the guy, but arriving at his airport, I met him in the pilot's shack. The guy was HUGE! The first thing he wanted me to do was a weight and balance check on the plane. I knew I still had a full load of fuel on board, asked him his weight, figured mine in, and made the announcement that one of us would have to stay at the airport because we were way over gross weight for the plane to take off! So, we drained off fuel until we were with in  limits!
The guy was so big, he even had his seat belt extension with him! Finally we were cleared for take off. The plane ate up about 5000 ft of the 7500 ft runway before I could horse it into the air. The first maneuver he wanted once we got to altitude was a power off stall. Well, I gave him one! At the apex of the stall, the left wing dropped and we went into a spin. I got the plane level again looked over at him, and the guy was white!
I asked what he wanted me to do next? He finally got his voice back, said "no more maneuvers, you just earned your wings". I flew back home, related the story to my flight instructor, and the other guys in the flight shack, we all had a good laugh! I have never enjoyed anything as much as I did flying. Scared myself a few times over the years, but overall it was just pure pleasure. About a year and a half ago a heart attack put me on the ground forever, but I still look up when I hear a plane and think, how lucky they are to be flying.

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