I am Not Crazy, Airplanes Are Alive!

11:51 PM

I'm going to sound a bit cliché here, but there is a special bond a pilot forms with his/her airplane. It's not the same bond you form with people, or the dog, or a pristine '64 Mustang. This bond is the kind of – dare I say it – love one acquire for this bizarro collection of nuts, bolts, aluminum, gasoline and electrical toys that unlike anything else, can take us skyward and allows us to FLY.

Only other airplane owners will know what I'm talking about, non-flyers cannot know the love we have for our planes. It goes far beyond admiration, you admire a flat screen TV, but you love an airplane. And I may sound crazy in saying this, but in my case as well as many others, the airplane loves you back.

I have written at length about my love of Katy, our family Cherokee 235, about how this vintage but well-preserved girl races my heart each and every time I open the hangar door. I believe this airplane has a heart and a soul, as do all airplanes. Walk inside Duggy, the bright yellow "Smile in the Sky" DC-3 and I swear you can feel that beautiful machine's pulse as you climb the steep incline to the cockpit.

Now before you go off thinking I'm just making this stuff up about Katy, I recently found someone who can corroborate my story fully. Out of the blue last week, I received an email from Larry Chapman, a previous owner of N8527W who lives in Georgia. He wrote to tell me how happy he was that I was taking care of his old girl, and from his email, I sensed he had the same feelings for this plane then as I do now.

So I asked him to elaborate on his relationship with the 28th Cherokee 235 to come out of Lock Haven, and this was his reply:

"I flew numerous trips in N8527W during a period of eighteen years. 27W inspires confidence. It is so easy to fly, so forgiving, high lift wings, manual flaps, and it’s got that big O-540 to deliver the power. In that time, I really got to feel that 27W and I were an entity – one being. I never doubted that 27W would not perform for me. We flew in all kinds of weather -- thunder storms, rain, snow, severe turbulence, and a lot of good weather too. And, as with any relationship, there were many times when we had to work together to overcome problems such as a partial engine power failure, electrical failures, or loss of radios on IFR flight, but I never had any doubt that 27W wouldn’t get me where I was going safely."
One being, yes, that describes how I feel when I fly Katy. But, I found out, she wasn't always "Katy", no, she carried a different nickname back in the day:
"When I bought 27W, it was painted blue over white with small tail letters. One of my daughters said the plane looked like a bandit with the paint scheme it had then, so the name "Bandit" stuck even after we changed the paint scheme to the blue over grey it has now. I like the name "Katy" that your wife gave 27W...I think it fits."
Chapman flew Katy with pride, and in return, the old girl served him well. But like many friendships, it had to come to an end:
"About the year 1997, the character of my business changed and I began doing more local work around Atlanta Metro area. The hours I flew every year began to decline and when I was getting ready to renew my insurance in 2003, I realized I had only flown 17 hours in the last year. I decided that it was time to sell 27W as neither one of us was now benefiting from our relationship. I called Lowe Aviation in Macon, Georgia and they flew a pilot up to take the plane to Macon to sell it. I sat there and watched it take off and I then just watched where it had disappeared for probably thirty minutes. One of my very best friends had just left my life – an era was over."
He ended one of our emails by saying "thanks for buying my friend" and after these many exchanges, I feel lucky as hell to be the caretaker of this tiny sliver of our personal aviation history. But I also know I'm tasked with maintaining this sexy (to me) 45-year-old flying machine, because like all airplanes, Katy, or Bandit, or whatever the other owners called her, deserves nothing less.

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