The ancient philosopher, Epictetus, once said, “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.” Well, the old boy was likely not referring to flying a tiny Cessna, but the message is clear.
And with my now grown son safely half-way around the world as I blog (there must be a more elegant word for this activity), I’ll risk his ire for my reporting on this crisp morning in October years ago.
I’d see the tiny airplanes buzzing over busy Route 50 as I commuted home to Annapolis from my job in Washington, DC and wondered what it would be like to someday have the chance to get into one of these again. I’d taken one class of flying when I was stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas in the early 80s, but lacked the confidence or drive to continue. Years later, my sister-in-law invited the kids and I to fly with her in Florida. They were tiny at the time and Val had only just graduated, with only 16 hours under her belt! Insane, yes? My wife and I later that day, large glasses of wine in hand, discussed how quickly her little family could have vanished had something gone terribly wrong.
Aside from the pre-flight that morning that had revealed a faulty carburetor, there was a kinda close call with a commercial airplane that was nearing the airspace getting ready to land as we were taxiing to take off… really. But, somehow, I trusted Val. She was so quiet and measured and, years later, she would be the one fending off a large black bear on the trail up from Exit Glacier in Alaska, but that story is for another day.
Yes, indeed. Now it was my son’s time to get behind the controls and off we would go for a sweet ride across the Chesapeake Bay, over Annapolis, and back. We could not have asked for a nicer morning, the two of us having come up to the parking lot in momma’s fun BMW Z4, top down. Felt like we were on the set of Top Gun, well ok an exaggeration, but that was my mood for sure; my mind’s easily transported into makebelieveland.
We met our instructor in a tiny, one-story concrete, bunker-like office building, went through the pre-flight and were up in the air before we knew it. Plugging-in, the interconnected headphones were quite fun; could hear all the back and forth between the air traffic controllers, Anthony and his flight instructor. Sitting in the back of that tiny airplane was a delight for this, old thrill-seeker.
Wheels up! Buzzing over the green landscape, it wasn’t very long before we were over the water, looking down upon the Bay Bridge, heading over to the Eastern Shore. The drone of the motor had my mind drifting back to our many sailing adventures we’d had over the years in our 27′ boat, Foolish Pleasure. We’d ventured out in all weather conditions and somehow managed to survive. Epictetus would certainly approve.
Coming back, we banked a hard left, seemingly grazing the traffic over the highway before touching down. It had been a really neat experience.
We thanked our young instructor that morning and as I write this now, I have to wonder how that experience may have influenced Anthony to join the US Navy as an Aircrewman. Maybe I’ll have to pour the young man (he who possesses far greater courage and confidence than I) a fine cognac and ask. It will have been three weeks since I post this and hope that I shall be forgiven my sin…