One of my most cherished memories was taking flying lessons. I was doing research for “Windshift” and testing my own wings. How bold could I be at 40plus? At 50? This was long before I got to meet some of the greatest aviators of our time at the 2001 Aviation Hall of Fame Ceremony in Dayton, Ohio…and by meet, I mean bump into…Chuck Yeager was coming out of the hotel as we were going in. Robin Olds received his award that year. John Glenn sat two tables over from us at dinner. Joe Kittenger and his wife sat at our table. We had coffee with Scott Crossfield. Neal Armstrong even did me the honor of stepping on my toe. A great event.
But I digress. This was the book I was working on when I decided to take flying lessons in the early 1990s. I’d worked on it quite awhile before I realized that “getting it right” was going to take more than just reading about the extraordinary lives of these women. I didn’t expect to be able to get it perfect without living the lifestyle, but I could get closer.
So one day, I woke Johnny up and told him I was going to learn to fly. And after yawning, he said, “When?” And I said, “Today!” And he said, “Okay.” And so I did.
So after I got where I could take off and land reasonably well, we rented a small six seater plane and paid my instructor to join us for a long weekend. We flew out of Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport to Columbus to pick up our kids and then on to Raleigh, North Carolina, to pick up our old college chum Larry Wikof….and then on to Kittyhawk.
Unfortunately, our little plane was still too big for First Flight Airport so we had to land some distance away and drive a car to a hotel which I have no memory of at all. Perhaps because hotels were old hat compared to aviation?
The museum definitely rocked. But the field where this movie (see below) was filmed was tough going because it was filled with sticky thorns that clung stubbornly to my leggings and worked their way into my shoes and into my hair. Ouch! Not all was lost though, walking around the area where it happened filled me with joy and a new admiration for these early designers and pilots. And for one short afternoon, I stood in this special place where Orville Wright first lifted off and flew.
( I did get to fly as a passenger in one of the Kitty Hawk biplanes that day too. What a gas! Maybe a bit more sophisticated than the Wright Flyer, but oh so much fun.)
Enjoy the moment.