Before I became a pilot, I didn’t have a strong opinion on airplanes either way. They were interesting, but, like most people nowadays, I simply viewed them as a necessary evil/vehicle to get from A to B. I do, however, have the pleasure of remembering what it was like to fly before 9/11, but that’s another blog.
I became friends with a couple of customers and they were both pilots. And both of them talked about flying. A lot. I had never known a real pilot before in my life and was intrigued at how someone could have the balls to fly one of those tiny things around. Then he offered to take me for a flight.
It was an Aeronca Champ, similar to a Piper Cub, where you had to fold yourself to get in and the pilot sat behind you in a tandem seating arrangement. We bumped along in the grass and pulled onto the grass next to the runway. “Aren’t you supposed to be on the pavement?” I asked through the headphone mic….”Nah…the grass is softer.”
Taking off and flying in that Aeronca was a feeling that was tough to describe. If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle a bicycle, picture yourself riding on the road and then suddenly leaving the earth. Even that doesn’t accurately describe how amazing it is to have a view of the treetops as if you were a Great Blue Heron lumbering along to search for some frogs.
We flew over some of the sites we mutually worked on, we flew over the golf course I played a bunch of times and flew up and down the road I commuted on nearly every day. Seeing all those things from the air made me appreciate the wonderful, rural, land I worked in and instantly gave me a new appreciation for my friend Larry. That flight also gave me a curiosity and passion for something I had never experienced before. That’s what flying will do…almost every flight in a small airplane enriches your life and is an amazing vehicle for making friends.
Larry and I continued to do business together and I would later keep him updated on my progress as I started my flight training. I moved away, but still run into Larry occasionally and I always make it a point to thank him for that first flight. That was a tremendous gift, and I’m not even sure he realized he gave me anything.