This weekend I went to a fly-in. It’s been a while since I’ve been to one, and, though it seems simple enough, it can be hard. Fly-ins transport me back in time, an emotional journey.
This annual event is small here in our town but draws dozens of planes of every purpose and vintage along with hungry pilots, families and people like me who enjoy the planes and a pancake breakfast. This year was not a disappointment with a variety of old and new, large and small, useful and just-for-fun flying machines. Just seeing these planes took me back to another life, and the lives of others, the memories of which are precious to me.
There was a Cessna 150 (over on the far right) like I learned to fly in. It looks like a toy now but seeing it tugged at my heart – I spent a lot of hours in a little plane just like that. Flying was simpler then with far less technology. My instructor, Hal Chappel, sat beside me for hours, his unlit pipe dangling from his teeth, guiding me through radio technique, emergency procedures, and now-outdated VOR navigation. Our time over Phoenix was usually at sun rise, hours I will never forget.
There was a handsome, yellow Harvard from Canada there, a WWII trainer. A friend of mine had an American version of that plane, a T6, and took me for a ride once upon a time. It has a big radial engine out front, and nothing sounds better or more powerful when you’re thundering over the desert with one of those pulling you.
There was a 1928 Travel Air there, a restored beauty. There was an unusual little float plane that had a single float as part of the fuselage, and a sleek, black Pitts that I’ve watched playing over our valley. A little Robinson helicopter hovered in the background off the ramp. I hovered a little Hughes 300 once, out over the desert, and I managed not to trim off any cactus with the tail rotor 😉
Planes came and went during my visit to the air field. When those planes lifted off I knew exactly how it felt – the wheels leave the ground and you are part of the air, closer to the clouds, seeing the world as landscapes and horizons! To say that flying made my spirit soar may seem banal but platitudes have truth in their origins.
Fly-ins used to be a routine part of my life, in Arizona, California and Washington. In that life I went with friends, husband, or my dad. How I miss the shared discoveries, the hangar flying, and the heart-stopping roar of engines. I smile with each memory, trying to ignore the single tear.