8:51 AM

Once in a
Lifetime Chance

I can still remember those wonderful bicycle trips I took over to the Fresno Air Terminal back in 1966, to hang on the fence and fall in love with flying. As I headed east along Ashlan Avenue towards the airport, my Schwinn Sting Ray – yes, it did have ape hanger handlebars and a Banana seat – could not go fast enough:

Sometimes when I was almost there, I'd see a couple of California Air National Guard F-106 "Delta Dart" fighters rocketing off the departure end of 29R, and my 10-year-old heart would race. Once I got to the fence and assumed the hanging position, I'd just about go nuts when one of United's beautiful 707s would blast off right over my head.
Kids and airplanes somehow were made for each other, and if you've people-watched at air shows like I have, you see smiles on the faces of just about every child there. And each time I see their big eyes widen when a P-51 fires up or an aerial act does something spectacular, I realize that inside I have been waiting patiently for my chance to be that old guy hanging on to that little arm. Well guess what, the wait is over:
This week, we received word from son Michael and his adorable wife JJ that "they" are pregnant! The word joy cannot even begin to describe how Julie and I feel, because as this world turns, we lose people we love, it is inevitable. And while a newborn might not be able to replace a sensational brother-in-law that has gone off to fly with Lindbergh and Papa Louie, these new little humans coming into our lives will in their own special way complete a circle of humanity.
So while our entire family has gone into "baby" mode, all for different reasons, I might be the only one looking forward to this:
There will come a time in the next five years or so, when this new grandkid will meet me and Katy (our 235) out at the hangar one clear spring morning. I'll take a minute to get down on my knees and speak to him/her at eye level, explaining just what an airplane is, making sure the little tike knows airplanes are nothing to be scared of. Then, I'll carefully buckle him/her in the right seat atop a pillow, and smile inside as I watch his/her eyes brighten with amazement. They will ask me silly questions that coming from an adult would be crazy. But when that little voice next to me asks "what makes us fly?", I will be in heaven. I will soon pull back on the yoke and force my gear to part ways with the rock we live upon, and in the next few minutes of airborne bliss, I will hopefully spark a lifelong fire in this child's heart and offer up my personal invitation to fall madly in love with flying machines.
Maybe it won't take on the first flight. But there will be others. I won't force the issue, one has to fall in love with airplanes on their own terms. Being one with the sky is either in your blood or it is not, becoming an natural aviator is not an acquired skill, it seems to be part of our inherited DNA.

And when I look at the way this child's daddy – Michael – has demonstrated to me an uncanny ability to fly our Cherokee 235 to near-IFR practical test standards for altitude and heading on his very first trip up in that plane, I believe there is enough aviator's DNA in there somewhere to at least give his son or daughter a fighting chance to soar with Eagles if they so choose. I will do everything in my power to coax that aviator's soul out into the open, hoping along the way that my devotion to flying will rub off on Junior. In my crystal ball I see air shows and aviation museums in our future, and of course many, many outings in the family airplane to picnic at Cape Blanco, lunch in Sun River or hike in British Columbia.

Which makes me think about the number of seats in Katy...four. You put Marmey and Doo Dah (my assigned grandpa name) along with Mike and JJ in the plane, and add a young child and all the stuff that goes with him/her, and that makes five people and just four seats. And don't get me wrong, the last thing I want to do is to replace our wonderful 235 – I'd be happy if that never happens – but doing the math on a growing family makes me begin to possibly see a Saratoga far off on the horizon.

But wait, that's five people and six seats in a 'Toga...so one seat would still be empty, right? I guess we'd then be covered if the Connolly's have twins.

You Might Also Like