Saturday, September 21, 2013


I have often said that a significant part of my love of aviation is visual. Sometimes, an image from the past triggers a profound cascade of memories and feelings, like the whiff of a familiar scent from childhood or the snippet of a song that was on the radio when you met your one true love.

When I returned to my office from lunch yesterday, the image on my screensaver was one that I had not seen in a long time and it stopped me in my tracks.

I was immediately, powerfully, transported back to December 8, 2002. Graduate school was three years in the recent part and we were living in Kalamazoo, MI, where I was doing research for a company that ceased to exist just a few months later. I had recently earned my private pilot certificate, with 40 hours of pilot in command time under my belt that were flown exclusively at the helm of Cessna 150s. Thoughts of airplane ownership and fatherhood were still well in the future. 

The scene immortalized by the camera CCD occurred while I was riding in the back seat of Super Decathlon N2468W flown by my mentor and friend, Dave. On that cold winter's day, we were maneuvering over the shoreline of Lake Michigan, setting up for landing on the frozen grass runway at the South Haven Area Regional Airport.

It was not a particularly meaningful flight except for one detail. It was my first time taking pictures from an airplane in flight. Although the flight itself was not particularly meaningful, it nonetheless changed everything for me.

The photo was soon gone, replaced by something more recent and familiar. In its ephemeral wake remained a sense of perspective on time and change along with a warm feeling in my chest at the memory of good times past.

It is amazing to me what a simple image can conjure when least expected.


  1. Chris, I have many of my favorites on the work computer. Of course while I'm working I don't get to see them come up. However, when someone comes into my office to chat and the screen saver pictures start I catch them looking past me to the screen then asking, where is that?

    I too fondly remember each shot. One of the best is a bug filled wind screen on short final into KWBW. Not much to look at but a great memory of my first trip 'home' where my family is from.

    Good post, good memories!

    1. Even bugs can't ruin a great memory! :-)

      "Where is that?" and sometimes "WHAT is that?" are frequent questions asked by visitors to my office, too. Those reactions are what led me to start posting pictures online in the first place, which in turn led to this blog.

  2. Great story, and funny timing. A coworker was in my cube this morning commenting about the plethora of photos I have posted on the walls - most from my travels and flying. He asked about one that I also took the first time I brought my camera into the sky, in the Champ just after my first solo five years ago. Brings back lots of good memories for me, too.