10:32 PM

The Other 'Woman'

Pilots often speak of their airplanes in affectionate ways, calling them their "mistress" as a half-hearted joke. Sometimes it's their wives who call that damned plane "the other woman" since their husbands spend so much time caressing their flying machine when they should be, well, you know.

As a first-time airplane owner, I am quickly coming to terms with something that as I have always expected, it is that airplanes have souls...they are alive. They start out as aluminum, plastic and rivets, a lifeless pile of materials. But once completed, they become a machine that FLIES, which is why your toaster has no soul. You never get to know this as an airplane renter, only the actual owner of the airplane gets to experience the warm and fuzzy part...the emotion of owning your airplane and realizing it as so much more then a mechanical object.

We pilots all strive for becoming the sole owner of our very own airplane. For me, it took about 12 years to get into the proper financial place to buy the right to not have to share my bird with anyone, except my family. But they know Katy as passengers, only I get to know her right now as her pilot:

With 56.3 hours logged as her PIC, I am just now getting to know Katy. For 44 years, she has had a number of pilots sit in her left seat and manipulate her controls, and she has never let them down. But none of those other pilots matter to her now, only Dano matters, because I'm the one keeping her polished and making sure her oil is at the right level. And, it is me that keeps my promise to her to always return her to the surface of this planet in a gentle way that won't jar her vintage bones.
As I go about owning this airplane, there have been moments of accomplishment and joy. One of those times was when I departed Whiteman Airport in Los Angeles with Katy, flying her for the very first time. Another was when I stepped down off her wing in front of my new hangar back at Eugene at the conclusion of that glorious northbound delivery trip. But I never felt quite as proud of her as this past Friday:
After going out to the field late one night this week to get current for night flight, I discovered her landing light was in-op. The bulb looked fine, as did the fuse. So I had the swank FBO at EUG pick her up so their A & P could diagnose the situation. On Friday evening, I returned to Flightcraft to pick Katy up, and was told she was in the main hangar and they requested I go out and help the line man walk her out. I stepped into the massive and well-lit hangar to see Katy front and center, between a major-league bizjet and some sort of very expensive Beechcraft single, probably an A36. It must have been the new layer of Supercoat that I recently applied to her wings and fuselage that allowed her to shine brightly as the overhead halogens bathed her in sexy white light. Set atop the spotless white epoxy hangar floor, Katy could not have looked better. It was at this precise moment that I knew I was in love with a machine.
I have read many stories over the years of pilots who have developed a "relationship" with their plane, including many tales of C-47s that seemed to do the impossible to save their pilot and crew. And if you've read the amazing story of Three-Eight Charlie – and talked to Jerrie Mock as I have – you'll believe that "Charlie" looked after Jerrie as she flew eastbound around the world. To me, that has to be the finest example of an airplane having a personality AND a soul.

Now don't get me wrong, Katy may be my new girlfriend, but she will never substitute for my loving wife, who is more then any one guy could ever ask for in so many ways. I have won the wife lottery, and my best day would be one spent with both Julie AND Katy.

Anyone who has ever known me will tell you straight up that I'm the last guy you'll ever see chasing skirts. So having an affair with my airplane is a safe thing, a little fling on the side with a classy lady – O.K., an airplane – that asks nothing of me more then a little TLC and some respect.

Because everyone – including me – knows that in reality you can never substitute a woman with an airplane.

Or vice versa.

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