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52
My father, my greatest friend and mentor, Sirens of Titan whose beckoning was beyond
began flying when he was fifteen. He was mortal refusal. Once bitten by the flying bug,
naturally drawn to the skies and the metal birds there is no turning back. The kicking over of the
that could take him there. And as we kids were engines and their melodious drone as they sing
growing up, Pop excitedly shared his love of in unison, the smell of the hot metal, the thrill
flight with us. After his family, the airplane was of the takeoff, the spectacular perspective from
his main love We all became weekend warriors, above and the ever-present challenge of the
regularly flying back and forth from Philadelphia perfect landing, are all ingredients for exquisite
to Bader Field, Atlantic City. The flights were savoring. Although predictable with today’s
sometimes short and other times hours long, degree of forecasting, forces of nature always
depending upon moods, schedules, and demand the utmost of respect. Sun, wind, rain,
weather. When business dictated, we flew to ice, and thunderstorms test the pilot’s mettle.
an airfield where commercial aviation could not When cruising the skies, Pop and I were at odds
get in because of the short runways. No tickets, with the unknown, a reality which can confront
no lines, no waiting for passengers to embark. us with nasty surprises at any given moment.
All that was needed was a flight plan, procedural I learned from my father, that it’s safety first,
checklist, and clearance from the tower. then pleasure, never otherwise. Pilot error is the
The lure of the skies is sensual, like the greatest threat to a successful flight, although
mechanical failures do occur on a rare occasion,
which is when the true competence is critical.
It is for this reason redundant systems checks
that have saved many a life are necessary.
Flying is a unique experience that invades
one’s soul with a relentless grip. There is a
constant level of solitude, an air of freedom,
and a timeless degree of exhilaration in flying.
Even when I am on the ground, the very sound
of propellers slicing through the air chills me
with excitement and as the reverberation of
their pitch shifts from high to low as the airplane
fades into the distance, the draw of nostalgia
grows stronger.
Whether pilot, copilot, or passenger, those
formative years of flying are embedded in my
psyche, but the trips now, are painfully solo
without my father. In 1974, I had the daunting
decision of keeping or selling our beloved Aztec
(6897 Yankee) after Pop passed very suddenly
and unexpectedly. Either way would be painful,
but the choice was obvious. To keep her would
have meant flying alone and that empty seat was
just too much for me to bear. Just the thought,
let alone the sight of it, drew tears. My flying
was decidedly over. I found a good home for the
avantoure | |school of trickery
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