There is a sensation only airplane owners know, one that non-owners or renter pilots will never get to experience. That sensation is the elation a owner/pilot feels when he/she throws open the hangar door and catches those gorgeous first views of their flying machine.
While renter pilots certainly can get the full frontal feeling of flight – with all the sensational wonder that comes with it – the feeling that comes from airplane ownership almost defies description in words. Ask any owner/pilot and they will tell you tales of developing a sort of love affair with their plane, the kind of passion that makes their heart race at the very sight of their bird. It's like this:
I first saw this way back in the very early 90s, when a good family friend named Bob introduced me to his 1966 Cessna 172, FAA N6054R. We were at the Madera Airport very early in the morning, getting ready to depart on a long XC to Mulege, Baja, Mexico to slay the Mighty Dorado. As Bob slowly pushed back the hangar doors, he very respectfully asked "Good morning five-four Romeo...ready to go to Mexico?" The plane responded in the affirmative when Bob touched the starter button and his beautiful Skyhawk came alive before the second blade passed the windscreen. All the way to the Hotel Serenidad and back, five-four Romeo served us perfectly...and you could tell each time Bob took off that he and the plane had – as they used to say on Soul Train – a "thing" going on.The next time I noticed this phenomenon was one summer day up at Pine Mountain Lake Airport near Yosemite National Park. I had flown in there to lunch with a few pilot buddies, and after the $100 hamburger, we strolled over to Kent and Sandy Blankenberg's airplane museum a.k.a their hangar. The centerpiece of this immaculate shrine to flying hardware was a perfect Lockheed 12A:
As Sandy gave us a tour of their museum/hangar, she was gracious and also very knowledgeable of every piece of history in the place. But when we got to the Lockheed, she pulled out a polishing rag from somewhere and proceeded to tell us about the 12A. As she walked around the plane, she was a never-ending polishing machine, and the gleam in her eye for that beautiful vintage flying machine told the real story - it had to be love. I stumbled across Sandy and the 12A again the next summer at Oshkosh, and like before, there seemed to be no end to her fancy for polishing the family Electra.And tonight, I had a personal moment of my own. We had family in for the holiday, and I was chomping at the bit to take them up in Katy for a scenic flight over our beautiful neck 'o the woods. But EUG cleared to no better then OVC 300, and stayed LIFR all day. Since I have yet to quite finish up my IFR rating (getting dangerously close however), Katy remained parked in the hangar.
Since everyone else in the crew was doing something else, I decided to drive the 10 minutes over to EUG and just visit the family Cherokee. I didn't have a reason to go over there, and didn't need one either. As the mist and overcast blocked out the remaining sun, I slid open my hangar doors and there she was, ready to fly if Mother Nature would just cooperate. I spent a few minutes of quality time with the Old Girl, adding another layer of Supercoat to the leading edges, even if the last coat looked just fine. This trip to the hanger wasn't about waxing the plane, it was about adoration for a wonderous collection of aluminum, cables, electronics and gasoline that when operated in proper unison...FLIES.Yes, some guys and gals love to play golf, others get their ya-ya's on the ski slope. But for me, being with two-seven Whiskey is one of the best things on Earth I care to do. When that involves family too, it is just icing on the cake.