Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Copilot

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
30 Jul 2011 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - DSV (Dansville, NY) - 5G0 1.2 968.0

The Bear has been flying with us since she was five weeks old, accumulating just shy of 150 hours by the time she aged four years.  But it is important to emphasize that she has been flying with us for all that time, not just me.  The Bear has always flown in the back seat and always needed attention - food, drink, and entertainment - that I could not provide while flying.  Someone else has always been there to attend to her needs.  For every flight save one, that someone was Kristy.

Today was a milestone for us, a day over four years in coming.

The Bear and I went flying all by ourselves.

She was ready to go.  I promised that we would do some turns of the sort that Kristy generally does not enjoy (steep ones).  I also promised her the front seat for the first time.

The Bear supervised preflight carefully.

"I am feeling very excited about this flight," I told her as I checked the oil.

"I am feeling very silly about this flight," she responded, giving herself antlers with her hands.

I raised the Warrior's right seat to its highest position so that she could see out the window and installed her car seat.

She was so ready to fly that, halfway through taxi toward the departure end of runway 28 she asked, "Daddy, why aren't we flying yet?"  I reminded her of what she already knew; that we had to reach the end of the runway first.

We were still climbing away from the airport into a beautiful, clear blue sky when she inquired, "turns?"  I smiled and plead for some patience.

I placed the airport at our tail, flew five miles southwest, then cleared the area.  "Ready to do some turns?"

"Ready!" she shouted on the intercom.

"Which way do you want to turn?" I asked.  The Bear gestured to the left.

I smoothly rolled Warrior 481 into a steep turn to the left.  We completed a 360° turn and I rolled the airplane level again.

"Wow!  That was some turn!" The Bear exclaimed, grinning ear to ear.

"Do you want to do that again?  Maybe turn toward your side?"

"Yes!"  Strapped into the right seat, she pumped her legs up and down in excitement.

The Bear looked out her window as the right wing rolled toward the Earth.  As she stared at the green farmland beyond the wingtip, she commented, "oh...turning this way is MUCH better!"

Then, a moment later, "Daddy...I love you."

I know that I should cherish those unsolicited declarations for as long as I can still earn them.

We did at least five steep turns.  On the fourth, I began losing altitude and pulled lightly on the yoke to maintain level flight.  As the airplane g-loaded slightly, I worried how she might react to the sensation.

"How are you feeling?" I queried.

"I'm feeling..." She paused.

I worried and briefly contemplated the logistics of coaching a four year old in the use of an airsick bag.

"Happy!" she finished.

We flew past Silver Lake, a narrow body of water with a kink at the end.  "That lake looks like a golf club," she commented.  I knew that that comment would make my in-laws proud.

Several miles away, we could see an array of white posts reaching skyward.  "I see windmills!" she cried, pointing at them.  They were much too distant for the rotating blades to be visible.  Like any experienced aviator, she recognized those windmills with an eye skilled in viewing objects from aloft.

We circled Middle Falls at Letchworth.  "That's so cool!" The Bear enthused as she watched the Genesee River cascade one hundred feet down the face of a cliff below.

We landed at Dansville for lunch and hiked to the family restaurant near the airport.  We colored on her placemat together and played Twenty Questions while we waited for our food.  I guessed hers (Tweety Bird) and she guessed mine (Belle from Beauty and the Beast).  Occasionally, I would glance up and see someone at another table watching us with a smile on their face.  I am sure it made for a charming tableau as we played together across the restaurant table.  But what others did not - could not - realize was that today's meal went far beyond typical Daddy-Daughter stuff.

After a four year wait, The Bear finally became my copilot.

Back at the airport, we watched a yellow Piper Pawnee tow a glider aloft.  I tried to explain the concept of a glider to The Bear.  This this was no simple task.

We flew directly back to Le Roy, where The Bear and I cleaned up the airplane and put everything away.  She asked to see the pictures I had taken and, when I showed her one of the two of us leaning together and smiling in the cockpit she said, "you should put that one on the blog."

So I did.

Sitting at her workbench, she asked to sign my logbook again.

"Fun," she wrote, then signed her name.


  1. Excellent write-up Chris! It is great to be able to fly with our kids. When my family flies my daughter usually sits up front with me and my wife and son sit in the back. I've even let Hannah hold on to the yoke and she really enjoys it. I make it a point to put the kids names or use the word family in my logbook so I can query them to track their hours as well.

  2. Thanks, Jeff. I do the same thing with my logbook, but my daughter also has her own. Works great, assuming I remember to fill it out!

  3. What an awesome day and story - I was grinning wide while I read this! Love how much she's enjoying the fun stuff (steep turns, etc.) and loved flying with you.

    This is the kind of stuff I can't wait for in my own future... thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Thanks, Steve. Like you, I love taking people flying. With my daughter in the front seat for the first time, it was an entirely new experience for us both. I was reminded of the many other kids I've taken flying over the years, but this flight was obviously a level beyond those.

  5. Way to go Bear! What a great day. Abby has been my copilot for the last few years. She likes it better when we she can fly and we don't have to worry about staying on track.

    These times are priceless!


    The last picture posted says it can anyone add to that? Congrats Bear!