It started out as no more than a lark in 1999. Fly through the midnight of the old millennium into the new. Our family would view the public and private fireworks displays ushering in Y2K from a different perspective: through the windows of our Cessna 172 as we flew within forty miles northeast of Anchorage over the suburban area surrounding the Knik Arm including Eagle River, Birchwood, Wasilla and Big Lake, Alaska. I’d also have one less landing than takeoff in my logbook for 1999 – what a hoot!
First we took a trip into the Zulu time New Year in the waning light of the winter afternoon. Everything went fine and the GPS didn’t get confused as it went through 00 “Z” and into the next millennium.
That night, flying into the real New Year’s eve darkness, we watched the GPS clock as it counted to the magic hour. Finally, we popped off the cork and poured our drinks into the glass flutes we’ve now had for years (seem to break at least one a year). We toasted each other with sparkling cider at midnight aloft over the Valley. For an area where at the time most fireworks were illegal, the displays were spectacular. We’d had the best seat in the house for the display of American hope and promise.
Since then, we’ve been shut out a few times. Weather has caused us to cancel and one time the battery chose to go south, but even these events have become part of our family’s lore.
One year, due to a slight misunderstanding, we didn’t have a bottle opener ready for the sparkling cider on board, and no time to dig around the flight bag for my leatherman, so we decided to wait to toast each other on the ground. We’ve done it both ways over the years, inflight toasting and on the ground. All very sweet.
As the children grow up and move on with their own lives, perhaps it will be just Margaret and I flying from this year to the next. That we can be together flying through the years has always been a happy blessing. How long we continue depends on many factors, but you can bet the memories of our annual family flying tradition on New Year’s eve are already permanent!