Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

My adventures in general aviation, Part Three

Ready for a flight with Angelo, sometime in the late 1990s. Angelo had his own headsets and push-to-talk switch that we used in whatever plane we were using that day. It was better than using the hand microphone. Plus, we could talk without having to shout.

It sometimes struck me as ironic after I got my pilot’s license that while I could rent a small airplane and fly someplace, no one would rent me a car.

Back in the early 1980s, the worship of the military was unheard of. Today, everyone wants to give everything to people who serve in the military, but back then – and especially near military bases – the troops were barely tolerated. Of course, around the 15th and the 30th – the military paydays – the attitude softened somewhat, but mostly it seemed like people were not fans of the military.

But as for cars, well, back then the risks of handing a 20-year-old the keys to a Citation or Chevette were just too awesome to consider. No one would let me rent a car, period.

I have to say that this was not the way I was treated at the FBO where I had gotten my license. It was a nice place to visit, and the schedule sheet was there for all to see so you could block out airplane time for future flights. I had put some money on account there and had some left over when I finished my training.

There had been one fellow who told me that he had not flown for about three months since his successful flight test since, he said, the cost of training had wiped him out financially. As for me, I was so into airplanes and aviation that I spent a goodly portion of my check on flying, and still had some money left over for other things. Of course, being single and living in the barracks, and having a chow hall card, freed me from paying for a lot of things.

Soon after getting my license, I got checked out in the PA-28-181 Archer that the FBO had, and that checked me out in the two PA-28-161 Warriors on the line. I began taking some brave friends flying, and we always had a blast. We’d fly to either Blythe, Calif., or Imperial, Calif., and sometimes Parker, Ariz., or I’d just take them up and show them around.

The best part was when my parents visited the base one time, and I took my mother up in one of the Warriors.

One thing about me was that I was a careful pilot, and made sure to never take off into conditions that might be chancy. If I felt like the weather was not right, I wouldn’t fly. My experience during my three-legged cross-country taught me the need to be aware of my position at all times, and I heard about the misadventure of one fellow who took the Cessna 152 on a cross-country flight and got lost.

He landed on a road, and found only a few inches of fuel in each tank. He tried to take off and had an accident. The search and rescue people found him soon after, and the plane was racked up. He gave up flying after that.

In early 1982, I decided not to re-enlist in the Marine Corps, so I was going to have to leave the FBO where I had learned so much. It was kind of bittersweet, but after I got home I got checked out at an FBO at Republic Airport in Farmingdale. I continued to fly there and eventually got a job and was able to continue to fly.

The first girlfriend in my life was someone in which our first date was aboard a Piper Warrior, and her father liked me immediately when he learned that I was a licensed pilot, because he was taking flying lessons. We’d get into hangar flying sessions that would have my girlfriend wondering what she’d gotten into.

Another time, my Uncle John agreed to go flying with me. His wife told me later that he had spent the night before reading his life insurance policy and regretting saying yes, but he had a good time on the plane, as I recall, and is still alive today. There was no mishap at all on that flight, though he did start sneezing just before takeoff and managed to sneeze five times.

After the relationship with my girlfriend ended, I continued to fly out of Republic, but eventually, in January 1986, I moved to Florida for work.

At what was then called Palm Beach County Park Airport – Lantana Airport for short – I got a biennial flight review and flew Cessnas belonging to an outfit that opened up there. Soon after, I met my cousin Angelo for the first time, and we began flying together, and sometimes with his friends. One friend of Angelo’s owned a beautiful Cessna 182, and we did a flight to Vero Beach and other places in it with Angelo, the guy, me and another friend.

As time went on, I flew less and less, and then decided to stop. It was getting expensive, I was in college and money was tighter. I’d hear about Angelo’s flights but was focused on my degrees, and getting a new job in a new field. The knowledge was still there, of course, and could be used as a copy editor for a newspaper, and if I really wanted to fly, there was the computer and Microsoft Flight Simulator.

A few years ago, I thought about getting back into flying but I think I will never be able to do it, barring a major financial event in my life. I miss the smell of airplanes and the sound of a good landing, and for the price of an hour in a Cessna 152, I can get software to fly just about anything with wings.

When I drive past the airport, I still look out at the approach paths to see if a plane is coming in to land, and still gaze at the tied-down planes and wonder if someday I’ll be able to untie one and take it into the air, where it belongs and I long to be.

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February 16, 2012 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age | , , , , , , , ,

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