Sometimes I think back to when I was that little boy who would do anything for an airplane ride. I flew in some questionable airplanes! I had no fear and even back then life off the ground was much simpler. Ask any old pilot about the smell of an airplane. The old vinyl and fuel smell… When you climb into an old airplane and it doesn’t have that smell, it’s just not the same! I remember how sad I was listening to the gyros wind down and knowing we would soon push ol’ triple niner eight back into the hanger and close the doors. I have so many fond memories of flying, I don't think I could live without aviation in my life.
Fast forward to today, about 30 years later, and I’m riding with Travis to Temple to fly in his Luscombe. I’m nervous, on the edge of being downright scared. I keep telling myself to relax. Hundreds of flights before were fine and this one will be as well.
I try to think back to other times I’ve been scared to fly or scared when flying. There aren’t many. In fact, other than some trepidation when pushing the throttle forward on an unfamiliar plane, I can’t remember fearing a takeoff. I’ve often known that if the engine failed I didn’t have many options, but that didn’t even bother me. It was just something to keep in mind.
It’s now been over 3 weeks since we crashed and I’m still sore. Physical pain doesn’t help when trying to convince yourself the fear is irrational.
Maybe too soon, we’re at the hangar. I’m trying to carry on normal conversation. Travis climbs in and I prop the plane. Soon we’re on the way to runway 2 to head over to McGregor. Travis has a checkride tomorrow and he wants to practice. While he does his run-up, I watch a V-Tailed Bonanza take off and I smile. Aviation hasn’t changed, I have.
Travis lines up and we’re soon in the air and I’m okay. In fact, I’m completely relaxed.
When we arrive at McGregor, I’m impressed with the way Travis handles a plane. A few short months ago, he was nervous and was making a lot of mistakes. That’s how you learn though and he did learn. I now watch him giving input before the plane demands it, gently giving a touch of rudder when needed... On one takeoff in particular, I felt the plane get squirrelly and he expertly corrected and then smoothly lifted off. He’s ready for the checkride and I’m glad to have played a small part in it. (He passed, BTW!)
After a few landings, we head back to Temple for a nice landing and as we were putting the plane back in the hangar the sun set on an awesome day. I never doubted I would be back in the air, but it was the perfect day for this flight I needed so badly. I'm ready for another plane.
Jack “Back In The Air” Fleetwood