Flying my grandfather for his 90th birthday

“Full power. Engine instruments in the green. Airspeed alive.”

On November 12, 2016, I took off from Lynchburg Regional Airport in Virginia and about two and a half hours later landed at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Ohio. My flight instructor and I watched the ocean of mountainous terrain sink into the level stretches of land characteristic of Ohio. The trees were still peppered with fall colors, and the peaceful winds gently pulled the steam off the cooling towers along the route.

We refueled at Cleveland Hopkins, poured a fresh cup of coffee, and completed a weather and preflight briefing before flying to Lost Nation Airport, which was the airport I had my first flying lesson at in 2013. Upon landing, my parents energetically waved as I taxied to park the airplane near the FBO. We met my grandparents at Yours Truly for lunch, and quickly planned the following flight based on the area Grandpa wanted to see. We ate together and joked about what Grandpa wanted to see—a five-mile radius of points around his house, ranging from the Madison Country Club (where he has played since 1960) and the local Walmart where he is a greeter.

Author with grandfather
Every flight is exhilarating, but not every flight will be logged as a lifelong memory.

Every flight is exhilarating, but not every flight will be logged as a lifelong memory. This was one of those flights I will remember forever. Grandma nervously hugged us goodbye as Grandpa, Dad, and I squeezed into the compact Skyhawk. The day before, she called the News Herald newspaper and tried to get a reporter to cover the story… hoping for something along the lines of “Granddaughter Flies World War II Veteran for a 90th Birthday Present.”

We departed Lost Nation airport and flew along Lake Erie, making sure to circle Grandpa’s house and wave at his friends expectantly waiting on the beach. I glanced behind me to catch the look on my passengers’ faces and saw that they were captivated by the feat of flying over a place they love dearly. Or maybe they were intently looking for a place to land in case of an engine failure. Either way, there is something enchanting about flying over a familiar golf course or childhood home – even more so than flying over breathtaking scenery.

As I reflect, I am especially grateful Dad was able to come on the flight and point out the different streets and landmarks to Grandpa that I was unaware of. For much of the flight, I was focused on the actual flying, but my instructor took the controls at one point so I could watch as we circled around my home—a log cabin nestled into a cluster of spruce trees. Even though my journey into flight training began in Ohio, I had never had the opportunity to fly over my neighborhood. Fond childhood memories danced across my mind all the way back to the airport, and as soon as the wheels touched the runway I was struck by the significance of what had just occurred.

I must admit, it is challenging for me to fully articulate how dearly I hold onto this memory. With misty eyes, all I can say upon further reflection is, God blessed us with a beautiful day and the health and opportunity to fly. Barely a week after the flight, northern Ohio is dressed in gray skies, chilling winds, and a thin blanket of snow. A News Herald reporter was not able to cover the story, but I anticipate this version captures my sincere affection and gratitude for the chance to share in a memory connecting three generations of the Rabe family.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Young Pilots Writer’s Challenge, where we hear from young pilots about learning to fly and the joys of aviation. If you or a young pilot you know has a story to tell, email us at: editor@airfactsjournal.com

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