Being neighborly – an aerial introduction

In the 1970s, I lived in Maynard, Massachusetts, and weather permitting, had a well-established flying routine. I’d become something of a weekend warrior, generally going to nearly Hanscom Field in Bedford, where I kept my aircraft, a Piper Warrior. I’d generally try to go out in the early morning, beating traffic. I’d dial up the field ATIS before getting started, then head out to the car.

My next-door neighbor, Paul, had seen me go off frequently enough so he knew what I generally did, but on this morning, he was working on his yard as I was leaving the house.

Piper Warrior
The Warrior has introduced countless people to the joys of light airplanes.

“Hi, Steve,” he said. “Going flying?”

“Sure,” I responded. Then I added, “Want to come along?”

Paul considered it for a minute or so, then said, “All right. I’ll have to leave a note for my wife.”

When we got to the airport, I figured that Paul hadn’t been exposed to light airplanes before. As I preflighted the airplane, I explained what I was doing, step by step.

The sky was clear and conditions appeared very good. We got into the Warrior and I had him strap in.

After the runup, I tuned in to the latest ATIS, then contacted Ground, and started to the active.

As we moved along the taxiway, Paul remarked to me, “This the first time in my life I’ve ever been in an airplane.”

Paul was about my age, and the first time I’d been an aircraft passenger was when I was in my teens, and I was in my 40s. I naturally assumed that everyone of my generation had been airborne.

Hearing his words, I won’t say that my life flashed before my eyes, but it certainly startled me, and in the back of my mind, I wondered how he’d react.

Everything was nearly ideal. There was no wind, and on climbout, the air was smooth as glass. The conditions were almost textbook.

Maynard Mass
Taking in the view of Maynard, Massachusetts from the air.

Paul was impressed by the experience, mentioning how neat he found everything. I departed the pattern, and flew over to our neighborhood.

I took him above his house, and pointed it out to him.

After that, I gave him an aerial tour of the nearby region, and throughout it all, he remained enthusiastic about the experience. With the really calm air, he remarked that he felt that he could walk out on the wing to get a really good view.

I told him that wouldn’t be a good idea.

For about an hour, I took him around the New England environment. The visibility was really good, and Paul got an eyeful.

In time, I returned to the field. We’d been up long enough so that I suspected that near the field, thermals might have formed. As a precaution, I told Paul that as we approached, he might feel a few bumps.

It was fortunate that I alerted him. There were a few bumps, but having prepared him, Paul wasn’t uneasy. He enthused about the flight all the way home.

The following week, Hanscom was close enough so that I flew on my lunch hour to another airport, where I’d previously spotted something at a pilot shop. There, I bought a framable certificate for a “first flight in a heavier-than-air flying machine.” After work, I picked up an appropriate picture frame, and presented the filled-in certificate of his first flight, ever.

4 Comments

  • Wonderful story. I’ve been taking friends and family up for years for this reason also. And last weekend did my first EAA Young Eagles Day. I flew 4 flights with 11 kids total. Most had never flown before and some said it was the most exciting day of their life. Spreading the joy of flight to a new generation. A wonderful feeling. 🙂

  • Thank you for a very inspiring story. Just wish we’d see stories like this in some local newspapers, instead of just flying or aviation magazines/onlne articles. Might have some influence on improving GA across the board.

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