Friday, September 30, 2011

Pops and I

I can't say I inherited the flying bug from Dad, but he certainly had it long before I. He wanted to learn to fly before he got married or had kids, but never found the time and money to do it. When I was six or seven and still enamored of the romance of the rails, Dad went so far as to attend ground school, passing his Private Pilot written test with what I recall was a pretty high score. He was about to begin flight training when Mom got pregnant with Kid #4 of an eventual six. Time and money got scarce again for quite some time.

Dad never showed anything but delight and support when I co-opted his dream and started flight lessons at thirteen years old. I always told him I'd teach him how to fly when I got my CFI, and we talked about buying an airplane together. We'd page through Trade-A-Plane together, circling particularly good deals. We talked for years about building an Avid Flyer or similar kitplane. Mom would get furious at him for building my hopes up, but I always understood they were pretty much pipe dreams. In the last ten years I've offered many times to teach Dad how to fly; he's always turned me down, proclaiming that these days he's happy to just ride along with me when he can.

As soon as I joined the C170 club, I planned to take it to EAA Oshkosh this year. Dawn was a bit "Oshkoshed-out" after last year's frenetic show, so I asked Dad if he'd like to come with me. It would be his first time to the show, though he'd wanted to go for some time; he readily agreed. Unlike last year, the weather cooperated nicely and the morning of July 26th dawned clear and still over KCFE as we loaded the C170 with coolers and camping gear. We took off and turned into the rising sun, skirting past Crystal and Anoka under Minneapolis' Class B airspace. It was a fantastic flight. Dad loved the 170. Ripon was far more sane this year, and we landed on 36L without incident except for a short query about a "Yellow Dot" that looked awfully green! Best of all, there was one spot left for us with all the other Cessna 170s in the vintage aircraft camping area. It was a prime spot just a hop, skip, and a jump from show center.

We were only able to stay two nights but were able to see a little of everything. Dad was like a kid in a candy store; he had a goofy grin on his face almost the entire time. It was a lot of fun to see, because it reminded me of my first time at Oshkosh. Camping in the vintage area was much different and far better experience than the North 40. People were coming up to look at the 170 and talk old taildraggers the entire time. We watched the airshows from near our plane, cooked and ate dinner right out front, and walked up to Camp Scholler to watch Top Gun at the "Fly-In Theater."

The weather was fantastic until Wednesday morning, when we were planning to leave. We waited out the rain in the B-29's bomb bay (that's something you don't do everyday!) and the exhibition hangars, then packed up and snuck out of town during a noontime break in the weather. Low ceilings forced us to turn around only 60 miles away, and we backtracked to Wautoma to hang out for several hours in their brand new pilot lounge. A mix of local characters and stranded pilots headed for the show kept things interesting for a few hours, and then the ceilings finally lifted enough to scud run a few miles, find a hole, and get on top. We reached beautiful flying conditions thirty miles southwest of Wautoma, and the rest of the flight was nice. It was dusk when we finally touched down at KCFE. It was more challenging - and more fun - than any flying I've done at work in a while.

I don't know if Dad will ever learn to fly, but he's certainly one of my favorite passengers. We're already making plans for Oshkosh next year. And who knows...maybe someday we'll build that plane after all. We had our eyes on the Rans S-6S at Oshkosh!


Fred said...

Fantastic, Sam.

Joel P. said...

That was a fun read. I really need to make it up there sometime, and I'm more inclined to fly now that I know it's not always like a crowded birdcage over Ripon.

Also, if you haven't already, take a look at OSH on google earth. The current image was taken on 7/24/2011.

-Joel P.

Brian said...

Don't let him fool you, Sam. He's a pilot at heart (if perhaps not legally), and may not say so out loud, but I'll bet your Dad's just bustin' a gut with pride!! Captain on a JungleBus!! That's my boy!!!

Another Dad!

Sylvia said...

This is wonderful!

YYC Dispatcher said...

Terrific story Sam!

YYC Dispatcher

Sam said...

Joel P - do it! It's a lot of fun and usually not nearly as stressful as it was last year.

Brian - Two years ago my dad actually got to sit in the jumpseat of a JungleBus. We were on a Part 91 repositioning flight, without passengers, and I was able to get permission from company management to take my dad along and put him in the jumpseat. My wife has been able to do the same thing. Definitely something pretty neat most non-pilots never get to see.