Sunday, September 11, 2011


Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
11 Sep 2011 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - FZY (Fulton, NY) - 5G0 2.0 983.7

The day started off being all about pedal planes.

On the second Sunday of every summer month, EAA chapter 486 at the Oswego County Airport (FZY) puts on a terrific fly-in breakfast. The Bear's favorite part about these breakfasts are the pedal planes built by EAA members that are available for children to "fly". September 11 was to be our first and final chance to attend in 2011. The Bear was quite eager to put her longer, stronger legs to good use in a kid-powered P-51.

I checked the AWOS before we departed Le Roy and conditions at FZY were good VFR. The skies around Rochester were clear as The Bear and I passed through Rochester's airspace. Ahead, I could see an isolated patch of low clouds, but believed our destination to be beyond them.

I was wrong.

As we approached, the automated weather reporting system was now calling for cloud ceilings at 400' and 3500', broken. The report of a broken layer at 3500' over the airport was dubious; we were near this altitude and there was no layer. But there were clearly low clouds over the field and they may very well have been at 400'. I circled the field, debating internally about what to do, dreading having to explain to The Bear that some water vapor stood between her and a nirvana of pedaling.

Then I watched a Cessna depart and saw that he was able to fly the pattern below the clouds. The ceiling was most definitely not 400 feet. We flew a wide pattern to clear the low clouds in Class E airspace and turned final for runway 15. The clouds were actually much higher than they appeared from above and the approach and landing were trivial as we remained clear of them in the Class G airspace immediately overlying the airport.

As we ate our pancake breakfast, a 9/11 memorial began. Everyone stood for the presentation of colors. This was followed by some short speeches from elected officials. The next presentation was the "Toast to Fallen Comrades", adapted from the military tradition as a moving tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11, from first responders to those working in the twin towers. The presiding officer provided a narration of the symbolism surrounding each aspect of the round, white-clothed table set for six. He punctuated the description of each symbol with the word, "remember". A lone piper stood in the rear of the hangar and played Amazing Grace.

"The table is round – to show our everlasting concern for our fallen comrades. Remember.

The tablecloth is white – symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty. Remember.

The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of our fallen comrades, and the loved ones and friends of these comrades who keep the faith. Remember.

The vase is tied with a red ribbon, symbol of our continued determination to remember our fallen comrades. Remember.

A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those who will never return. Remember.

A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by the families of those who have sacrificed all. Remember.

The Holy Book represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country. Remember."

The toast concluded as six cadets, in unison, inverted the goblets at each unoccupied place setting.

"The glass is inverted, they cannot toast with us at this time," the officer finished. "Remember."

During the moment of silence that followed, I held The Bear's hand. She observed the memorial without comment, without impatience, and with a gravity that belied her four years. During the weighty silence in the crowded hangar, I wondered how I would explain to her what she was seeing. Outside, the muted sound of airplanes landing and departing could be heard.

To me, that was the sound of freedom. In spite of what happened a decade ago, the wonderful roar of aircraft engines are still heard at little airports like Oswego County.

We slipped out before the memorial was over. I had forestalled The Bear long enough in her quest to fly the pedal planes.

My little aviatrix skillfully navigated the wooden airplanes around the ramp, having come so far from the first attempt in 2008 when her legs were not long enough to reach the pedals.

She tried all three and had an absolute blast. Others watched her with smiles on their faces, taking respite from the somber memorial.

In that was a useful lesson, I think. We marked the occasion of 9/11 with remembrance. But we also reveled in soaring through the sky that morning, in spite of those who tried to transform aircraft into symbols of terror. We exercised our freedom to fly, with piston and pedal power. It is important to remember, but it is essential to go on living.

The Bear(s) posed with Warrior 481 prior to departure.

The low clouds had long since burned off once we climbed above the airport. I tried to get The Bear to see the difference...

...but her focus was elsewhere. Though the outbound flight held her attention well, she retreated to her MobiGo for the flight home.

Once back at Le Roy, we cleaned bugs off of the airplane together and departed for home.

"Did you like your pancakes this morning?' I asked.

"Yes!" The Bear enthused, then became thoughtful for a moment. "Daddy, why did those people come in?"

"During breakfast?"

"Yes," she confirmed.

"Because something very bad happened ten years ago, before you were born. They were remembering what happened."

The Bear thought on this for a moment. "Why?"

"Because, sometimes, it's important for us to remember even bad things."

The Bear accepted this without further comment on the subject.

"Remember those pedal planes, Daddy?" she asked, moving on to a new topic in the typical "oh look, a chicken" manner of a four year old. After expanding on how cool they were and how much fun she had, she fell into a contented slumber for the remaining drive home.

The lesson for me that morning was simple. As a citizen of the world, it is important to remember. But as a father, pedal planes are important, too.


  1. Wonderful post. Your exchange with The Bear sums up the day perfectly.

  2. "The lesson for me that morning was simple. As a citizen of the world, it is important to remember. But as a father, pedal planes are important, too."

    It's all about priorities. Looks like fun times doing the father/daughter day. Good post, brings back many memories. Hard to believe my daughter turned 25 this past July. Dang...I'm getting old.


  3. @ Steve - Thanks. It really did start off being about the pedal planes, she's been talking about that all summer and we kept missing the fly-ins.

    @ Gary - You're NOT getting old. You're logging more hours. :-)

  4. Chris,
    Beautifully put. We must remember to keep on exercising and defending, if necessary, our freedom to fly.
    Your daughter is adorable and lucky to have such a great Dad.