Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kids with Wings

"And one day, I am gonna grow wings, a chemical reaction"
- Radiohead, "Let Down" from OK Computer

I believe that all kids should experience having wings at least once.

The Bear showing off her fairy costume in 2010

No, I don't mean like this; not with vestigial novelty store wings attached by Velcro. Not by being hopped up on Red Bull. Not with chemical reactions of the psyche a la Radiohead. Rather, with actual wings that do what actual wings do: bear them aloft into the free medium of the sky.

This is what I mean. The Bear, stretching her wings on Mother's Day, 2014

One of my objectives at the start of 2014 was to give more airplane rides. So far this year, I have flown with lapsed pilots, student pilots, paying passengers (for the first time), friends, coworkers, and kids.

But kids remain my favorite because they have reactions like this:

9 Sep 2014: Master of the Sky

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
09 Sep 2014 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - local 2.0 1333.8

Harking back to my time in South Haven, when Dave and I held "Take Your Coworkers to the Airport Days" at the field, I invited several friends and their families to Sodus for airplane rides.

When she learned that I was planning to fly rides, The Bear said, "you're flying rides tomorrow? Am I going to be there? Can I help fly the plane? I won't do any crazy stuff unless people are ok with it."

That morning materialized in High Definition, the air so clean and crisp that even the elusive shore of Canada was visible across Lake Ontario at pattern altitude. I flew with three kids, two of whom took control of the Warrior for the first time to really spread their wings. Mom or Dad, on the other hand, were relegated to the back seat - but I expect that they had fun, too.

It was a wonderful morning of sharing my avocation with friends and I was appreciative of the weather for cooperating so magnificently.

Sometimes, there are opportunities to come full circle.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
25 Sep 2014 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - local 1.1 1338.7

September 17, 2005: Devon takes wing in South Haven, MI. Photo by Dan.

Devon, the six year old daughter of two close friends, was the first kid to ever fly with me back in 2005. We departed the paved runway at South Haven Area Regional Airport, banked toward the sandy Lake Michigan shore, circled the little red lighthouse on the end of the pier, and made a smooth landing on the grass.

Just over nine years later, Devon found herself in Warrior 481 again, this time in the right seat. This flight, displaced from her first by time and distance, launched from Sodus, NY to fly along the shore of an entirely different great lake. Aloft on the threshold of sunset, she took control for the first time, smoothly exerted her will over the airplane...and grinned.

"Flying a plane is like steering a horse," she observed, astutely realizing that the airplane already knew how to fly and that all she needed to do was gently, firmly point the Warrior in the direction she wanted to go.

As we wheeled over the Lake Ontario shoreline, daylight retreated over the edge of the world, leaving a dramatic sky in its wake.

Tattered pink clouds stretched over a similarly tattered lakeshore as Devon flew a circle around one of the smaller bays east of Sodus. The Warrior's wings turned pink in a pale imitation of the sky.

Devon explored the countryside under lingering twilight, ranging as far south as Geneva, NY. Once the residual daylight completely melted from the sky, we returned to Sodus for a night landing.

"Today was a big day, but in a plane, everything looks small," Devon wrote in my logbook.

One of the greatest joys as an aviator is seeing the magic of flight through the eyes, and smiles, of others.


  1. Just awesome.

    Not that it can't be done as a renter - since I've done so myself, after all - but this is one reason I can't wait to own... someday. It'll be so much easier to do things like this on a whim, or at least without having to coordinate any schedules other than my passengers' and my own.

    1. I also used to take friends flying when I was a renter, but you're right, it takes on an entirely different dimension when it's your own ship.

  2. Chris, Well done! How can you not enjoy those smiling faces!!

    1. Smiles are the only compensation I need! Cheesy, but true.