The Lure Of Flying
The Lure of Flying
I determined never to fly again after my first ride with my Pop in the old Tri-Pacer he had rented. He was a crackerjack pilot. I was just six years old and petrified of having nothing but air for a thousand feet between us and the ground below. After a few “almost” takeoffs, I conjured up the courage, mostly out of humiliation, to go up and around the pattern with Pop. I held on for dear life, but managed to survive the experience.
That was the genesis of countless hours and years of flying to follow. From single engine craft to the twin engine Aztec, which we came to love so much, we lined up on the runway, waited for clearance, and ran up the engines while the wings buffeted with prop wash. And, off we would go! The immense rush of power intoxicated me as those red-tipped throttles plunged forward, pinning us back into the leather seats. The airplane lunged forward, gobbling up asphalt as the center runway lines morphed from broken to solid while the nose lifted off in eager anticipation. We tucked away the landing gear when there was no longer enough runway to abort takeoff. Airborne, we were absent of all outside sound but for the melodic synchronized drone of the twin Lycomings as they pulled us skyward to serenity, air whooshing by in a sea of majestic calm as the ground fell away into a panoramic landscape. But for the occasional squawk and vectoring from the radios, peace abounded. The travails of life were in the past, out of reach as we quickly slipped beyond their grasp. Weather and traffic became our focus as we headed toward destinations unknown in random pleasure and abandon.
We would level off below ten thousand feet, relaxing the throttles and leaning the engines as the prop pitches were adjusted and the trim was set for appropriate cruise at 200 knots. The sky a brilliant heavenly blue, visibility unlimited, winds calm—ah, this is God’s country—a glorious unrestricted vista where topside atmosphere abounds. In the cabin, Pop and I were surrounded by gauges and instruments measuring our every movement and attitude indicating our flight path. Time stopped as we traversed beauty beyond description. With our fuel tanks topped, our range was substantial—five hours and one thousand miles to spend any way we choose. This was the ultimate escape. It never mattered where we ended up; it isn’t the destination that mattered, but the journey. Getting there was better than being there.
My father, who was my greatest friend and mentor, began flying when he was fifteen. He was drawn to the skies and the metal birds that could take him there. He excitedly shared with us his love of flight as we were growing up. The airplane was his first love only after his family. We all became weekend warriors regularly flying back and forth from Philadelphia to Bader Field in Atlantic City. We often took longer legged trips. The flights were sometimes short and at other times hours long, depending upon moods, schedules, and weather. When business dictated, we flew to an airfield where commercial aviation could not get in because of the short runways. No tickets, no lines, no waiting for passengers to embark, just a flight plan, procedural checklist, and clearance from the tower were needed.
The lure of the skies is sensual, like the Sirens of Titan whose beckoning was beyond mortal refusal. Once bitten by the flying bug, there is no turning back. The kicking over of the engines and their melodious drone as they sing in unison, the smell of the hot metal, the thrill of the takeoff, the spectacular perspective from above and the ever-present challenge of the perfect landing, are all ingredients for a recipe of exquisite pleasure. The elements of sun, wind, rain, ice, and thunderstorms test the mettle. Although predictable with today’s degree of forecasting, these forces of nature always demand the utmost of respect. When cruising the skies, we are at odds with the unknown, which can confront us with nasty surprises at any given moment. Safety first, then pleasure, never o