I have finally reached the second half of my life, although that may have happened many years ago. The kids are now on their own and some discretionary income has finally returned. I say this for the reason that when I learned to fly, I had no children. As life progressed, flying went on the back burner, and as the children kept coming (I had three), the back burner just burned out. So fast forward a little, I divorced and have since re-married. I always knew that my Private Pilot certificate was for life and in the back of mind I knew I would someday knock off the rust and continue my childhood dream.
One day last spring, I stopped by the local airport and made that appointment to get back in the left seat. I had dreams of taking vacations with the wife to great destinations – most are only two hours away, including the Emerald Coast. I came home that evening and told my wife the great news. She had a look of terror on her face as she uttered the words, “You have a pilot’s license?”
I have to admit this threw me back a little. Not sure I ever omitted this fact from our many conversations. We had a long courtship and a long engagement, but she reassures me that we never had this discussion.
The flight was very exhilarating and my renewed love for flying was back on the front burner. To add a little salt to my wife’s deep concern, I found a great flying club that was selling a 1/4 share of a Piper Cherokee 180. The price was right, so I had to have another conversation with my flying companion. Deep down she was sure that this was just another fad of mine that would go away.
My wife is a nurse and has an extensive list of opinionated friends who are great at giving us advice. According to her, they all agreed that I needed to have my instrument rating before she would be willing to risk her life. This became my wife’s answer to staying out of the right seat. I have since then been educated on her fear of flying, in a small plane mind you, and that this is not a good idea. She loves flights to anywhere in the world, if they are on the big commercial planes.
So, there it was. I accepted this new challenge she had put on my plate. I got to use our airplane to start my instrument training. I quickly became VFR current and started the lengthy process of getting my instrument rating. On occasion, with perfect conditions, I would ask her to join me in the right seat and enjoy this beautiful day to fly. Her response was to remind me what her friends suggested, that she should wait until I had the instrument endorsement.
I would then counter her statement with my own and let her know that she was running out of time, that this training would have an ending date coming soon. I tried to outsmart her and even took her boss out for a lunch trip, who is a best friend and introduced us. He gave her a great report on my flying skills, but her answer still involved her workmates’ advice. I could feel that I was starting to wear her down. Then it happened: she finally agreed to a Sunday flight to visit her family for a day.
We waited a month before the perfect Sunday to fly came along. I wanted her first flight to be perfect, and she was perfectly fine waiting. Finally, a gorgeous late fall day, plenty of sunshine and smooth air. I nailed the landings and had the perfect flight. I even used flight following to help ease her mind, and mine as well. The funniest thing I think I’ve ever heard her say was to her BFF that night on the phone. She talked about the flight and answered several of her questions, but when asked what she liked the most, she responded that when we were cruising close to the ground (1500 AGL) the last couple of miles under Class B airspace. I asked as to why she felt that way. It was a simple answer: “I just like being closer to the ground.”
The second flight happened a couple of months later. It was Christmas Day and her son was in town. I asked her if I could take her son for a flight over the city and introduce him to GA. She about broke down crying, saying, “I couldn’t stand losing the two of you should something happen, I’d have nothing to live for!” She calmed down and agreed several hours later that we could go if all three of us went. It was a beautiful clear Christmas Day night, or so I thought.
I had planned on doing a tower en route flight over the Memphis airport and then flying over downtown and Mississippi River. As we got airborne, and headed west, little did I know that a thin layer of clouds was working its way in over our departure airport, which caused us to land at Memphis International. Lots of first that night: tower en route, alternate airport before they went IFR, class B airport and asking for progressive taxiing.
Luckily, I’ve earned a lot of trust for some good decision making and I’ve since had her in the air one more time. Things are looking good on having a flying companion. I realize having this flight companion is mine to screw up. So, I plan to continue making sound decisions on conditions and being patient while she builds her right seat time. I have since then finished my instrument rating and am now working on my commercial.