Airs Above the Ground

“Dear, is this the airplane?”

We clinic. We judge. Inevitably we FLY! When tales are spun of missed connections, lost luggage and violent CAT, I shrug. It’s just “the price of doing business.”

 I inherited my love for flying from my dad who told stories of riding his bike as a teenager to the old Philadelphia airport to see the Gee Bee racer and of rushing to the street to glimpse the Graf Zeppelin gliding overhead. 

 He took my mom for her first plane ride on a DC-2 and fulfilled my sixth birthday wish with a flight “all the way” from Philly to Washington, DC. Air travel for kids was rare enough then that I was invited to sit on the copilot’s lap to view Baltimore passing beneath us. The plane was an Eastern Airlines Lockheed super constellation — gigantic then but not much larger than one of today’s regional jets. And back in those days, the planes were rarely full.

Flying can still be exotic to many people. I remember back in the 50s, my grandparents had booked their first flight to Europe. My grandmother in the spirit of preparedness bought a huge bandanna so the wind in the cabin wouldn’t mess up her hair. 

Fast forward – I was queued up on a jetway recently behind another first timer waiting to board, and I overheard the frail little granny say to her grown son, “Dear, is this the airplane?”

And  also encountered an infrequent flyer from Florida who, upon landing in Pittsburgh, was able to be convinced she had to change her watch having entered the northern time zone where everything was 20 minutes faster than back home.

I never got my pilot’s license, but I’ve hardly ever turned down a ride: a helicopter over the tall ships parade in 1976, another one hovering in front of the Statue of Liberty’s eyes, a ride in an open cockpit 1929 Curtis Travelaire, a commercial jaunt from Boston to Nantucket on the actual DC-3 which had flown more hours (over 80,000) than any other airliner in history, a Lake 200 seaplane blasting over the north central Florida savannah at an altitude of 6 feet, aerobatics in an Extra 300 over the Travolta mansion in Ocala, driving an Eclipse 500 around over Flathead Lake in Montana. For me probably the supreme adventure was landing (by helo) on the USS Kennedy in the Mediterranean.

None of my stories top my  Dad’s: The time they paid the cabdriver to sit at the opposite end of an unlit runway so they could take off at night to fly back from Mexico, but even better: Taxiing in a private plane right up beside the 707 at LAX that would bring him back to the East Coast. Times were different then!

One thing doesn’t change, and it always gives me great pleasure and brings back memories–that’s to hear the awestruck voice of a small boy in the window seat beside his father as they leave the ground for the first time, “Dad, we’re  flying!”