For some time now, my aunt Martha has been acting suspiciously — going off to spend some time "with a friend," several times per week, studying, and hinting at a surprise activity that was greatly dependent on the weather, but that wouldn't require sunscreen. There were some suspicious posts on Twitter regarding flying. Of course, that's a lot of secret to keep under wraps when you're staying with my parents. Deborah and I were in on it, though, and so I took a break from work, and we took the kids out to Warsaw's tiny regional airport.
Warsaw isn't ready for commercial flights yet. You drive in the gate, and it's assumed that you know where you're going, and that you know which areas are for cars, and which areas are for planes. The fieldhouse looked most accessible, and we eventually found someone who could confirm that this was the place to wait for incoming friends. There isn't even a control tower, let alone boarding gates. There wasn't the cold, clinical separation of modern airports — here, if you got any closer to aviation, you'd lose a finger.
So we sat out on the picnic benches in the bright, hot sun, and watched the skies. And, sure enough, after about 20 minutes, a small Piper descended from the heavens, touched down, taxied, and parked right by the fieldhouse. The lone door popped open, the flight instructor, my parents ("the surprised") and my aunt hopped out for a mini-family reunion on the lawn.
Once great-aunts and grandparents had been properly climbed on, we got back to flying.
Fiona and Deborah got to go up first, while my parents and I stayed and chatted. Amidst the discussion of the surprise, and other matters, my mother told me a heart-rending tale of my Uncle John, who was, at that time, about the age Aiden is now, and got to go up in a plane... except that he couldn't see out the windows. He never knew that they'd left the ground. It was just a bumpy, noisy ride for him.
So, when I went up with Aiden, one of the first things I made sure was that he could see out, and see the ground. While we were circling the Island, I actually unbuckled him and brought him over to my window to point out things I thought he should see. (To my frustration, Aiden denies seeing much more than than clouds and, if pressed, a few roads. I'm still puzzling over that one. Maybe he didn't understand what he was seeing...?)
After bravely clutching my arm for much of the flight, Aiden said he wanted to go down, so we did.
Possibly the most interesting part for me was actually being able to see through the windshield during the landing, and compare the things I was seeing and feeling — what the runway looked like on approach, the rotation of the plane in a gust of cross-wind, the long pause between entering the ground-effect cushion and when the wheels actually touched down — and compare my gut reactions to what actually happened, and got us on the ground safely. I have a much greater appreciation for the calm, bravery, and training that it takes to stick a landing in a shifting breeze.
I've told Deborah on numerous occasions that I'm planning on getting my pilot's license when I'm 40 — I figure it'll take that long (a) for her to get used to the idea, and (b) for us to be in a financial situation where that's feasible. Now I'm wondering why I put the goal so far off...