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Whose Airplane is this?

Cessna 172

By Fred LooneyPublished 11 months ago 7 min read
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Whose Airplane is this?
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

What a beautiful day, sunny and warm, not a cloud in the sky! My Dad is in the “Sales Game”, he has flown all around the US, or at least it seems that way to me and even outside of the US. When I was about 8 he went on a trip which, thanks to politics became a trip of a lifetime. He spend about a week on a sales trip to Havana! Pre Castro of course and he brought me the coolest souvenirs including Pre Castro Cuban Money!

But now it is 1966 and I am in the air for the very first time! It is a Cessna 172 and we were high above the Northern environs of Greensboro, NC. When my Dad asked me if I wanted to go for a plane ride I was ecstatic! I am 16 and a senior at Walter Hines Page High School, geez can you believe that name, sounds like a retirement home not a high school. We did the obligatory house hunt in July while traveling with my Dad from one podunk NC town to another, I wanted an apartment (no lawn mowing!) but my vote was not a deciding factor so into a pretty nice house with a huge lawn, just outside of the city limits we moved in early August. My Dad had decided to “rent” a house for a year to figure out where in the Greensboro metro area that he and Mom wanted to live. Although I constantly assured my folks that 12 years of school was more than enough and that I wanted nothing to do with college, they still believed I would “come around” when the time came. I would call it an uneasy truce. I did not want to leave the town where I had grown up and where all my friends lived to complete my final year of school in Greensboro. In fact in my naive twisted teen logic I had run away, I was going to New Orleans and live on the street with my guitar. Even I acknowledged that plan’s complete and utter stupidity! I made it as far as Bristol, VA or TN not sure which side of town I was on. Anyway I had a friend who was smart enough to know that my plan was not a plan and he essentially saved my bacon. As I daydreamed about that adventure I looked out of the windows of the Cessna and saw what a boring place North Carolina really is.

But now here I am looking down on the farm land, mostly corn and tobacco, the few streets and highways that I only briefly explored enough to understand that I did not know my way around the Greensboro burbs. My Dad insisted that I ride in the co-pilot’s seat and I watched every single move that the pilot made. The pilot, who owned the airplane we were flying in, and he owned the airstrip from which we took off and it was no small coincidence that he also owned the house we were renting.

After a few minutes of my gawking and asking questions which the pilot was encouraging when he turned to me and asked if I would like to take the control. What! Me Fly the Plane! Well, no thought needed, yes I would love it!

So he told me step by step what he expected from me and then on a signal I grabbed the steering wheel looking control and he ceremoniously raised his hands and turning to my Dad announced to a face shattering smile from Dad, that Fred is now our pilot! The airplane seemed to glow from the love it had been given over the years. The control yoke was suddenly as it must have looked them it first flew off the factory floor. I was learning all the names for the instruments, they looked a lot like the gauges in our old 1957 International Harvester Pickup Truck where I learned to drive but there was a monumental difference, these were instruments, not gauges! They all had special names and I was trying to remember each one as Mr. Trull pointed to them and recited it’s name and explained what it was doing and why we needed it. I fell in love with the Altimeter, the very first instrument that I learned how to read, I mean holy wow, the Altimeter actually told us how high we were flying. One look and a small amount of studying and I could plainly see that we were flying at about 9,500 feet above the ground. That was almost 2 miles high, cars and trucks looked like tiny toys and the ribbons of roads were laid out like the roads on my HO train table.

The very first thing I learned was called straight and level flight, Mr. Trull told me exactly where to hold onto the control yoke, that is the equivalent of a steering wheel but it does so much more. It looks a little like a bicycle handle bar turned up on it’s edge and turning the yoke did indeed make the airplane turn right or left but it felt a bit constrained then I learned how to gradually reduce altitude while keeping a wary eye on the altimeter and leveling off exactly there my flight instructor had told me to level. Next I got to climb back to our original altitude and a little above following exactly the same instructions but in reverse. Then we had a small “at a boy” celebration and I was told that we needed to turn back towards the airport, I did that by following his instructions and looking to my left for the airport when we sighted the airport several miles distant I go through instructions on how to make another left turn and to do the initial line-up on the runway. At this point he took back control of the aircraft, making me follow all the same movements and signals that he had given me. This was the most fun I had ever had, well at least since I learned to drive our old, 1957, on the column straight stick International Harvester Pickup Truck when I was 14 or 15 at the city park with no other vehicles anywhere around.

But this was so different, I flew an airplane, I did not take off and I certainly did not land the aircraft but I flew it.

Mr. Trull then let the cat out of the bag. This whole adventure had been planned for me! Mr. Trull then told me that I had passed his initial assessment with flying colors and he told my Dad that I would be able to have my VFR License in about 2 to 4 months depending on how committed I was to getting it done. I was mouth agape, this whole thing had been planned without even asking me if I was interested. It turned out that Mr. Trull was not just our landlord and a pilot but he was also a licensed flight instructor. It soon came to light that my Dad had done a bit of sales waggling and my first flight cost exactly the price to the gasoline used. All my flight time instruction would be for that same price, I (technically my Dad) was to pay for the fuel and then with minimal costs of manuals and the VFR license (VFR is the lowest, most basic pilot license, it is an acronym, Visual Flight Rules). In other words, a VFR pilot is only allowed to fly in clear weather and where the weather is clear.

My thoughts were crystalizing, my Dad, I love him and always will, but where the rubber meets the road my Dad was the consummate salesman. If I agreed to take those all too attractive flight lessons I would be swallowing the bait! Staying under his roof, if not college then still where I would be watched and coached.

I will always love my Father he taught me so very much, but mostly he taught me how to be a man. Thank you Dad, I still ride in the cheap seats when I fly and at least a thousand times I have rethought that decision. But the trade off would have cost me a short marriage and our two fabulous daughters and the hundreds of friends and family where that decision steered my life. I am very happy to be a Man!

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About the Creator

Fred Looney

My first lifetime, I wrote in the language of computers. Now, in my "Retirement" I want to express my thoughts and feelings to other humans.

Please join me in this new adventure while I explore what I have been hiding in my subconscious.

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