Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Flying With Our Pilot Son
When our son Nick was a small child, playing in sandboxes, he would stop what he was doing whenever an airplane flew overhead and watch it go by. Since the beginning of time, man has been fascinated by the prospect of flight, but some have the flying bug more than others, and we apparently got one who did.
Two more stories. Summer of 2001. We’re flying into Fort Lauderdale airport in a 737 during a thunderstorm, and every few seconds, or so it seemed, the plane would hit an air current and bump down sharply. I was sitting in the aisle seat, recalling my friend John’s advice that as long as the plane is still moving forward at the end of a jolt, you’re OK. Linda, sitting in the middle seat, had one hand over her eyes and the fingers of the other dug into my right arm so deep they were almost hitting bone. Nick, not yet 11 at the time, was at the window seat, and whenever we hit one of those bumps he’d chirp out, in sheer delight, “That was a good one!”
A Young Man Who Knows His Planes
Then there was South Carolina, June 2006. We were driving from Hilton Head to Charleston, and along the way passed the U.S.M.C. Air Station at Beaufort. By the front gate were a half-dozen vintage warplanes, representing a historical exhibit of sorts. Nick looked out the car window and without pausing for breath, rattled off the correct names of all the planes.
So it was not surprising that in the fall of 2011, just before his 21st birthday, having taken aviation classes at the community college and San Jose State, Nick started taking flight lessons at Watsonville Airport. It took time to rack up the necessary hours in the air, and there were some frustrations. Last summer he was ready to do his night flying, but every time he was scheduled to go up, a dense coastal fog would roll in, scrubbing the operation.
The determined and persistent typically prevail, and so last week Nick went up with a flight examiner and passed the exam for his pilot’s license. He now needs to get his instrument certification, then the next level of license, and after that he can fly passengers for money, at least as a charter pilot.
Mom and Dad Go Flying
In the meantime, he can fly family and friends around as long as they pay for no more than their share of the flight cost. Two days ago he took his parents up in a four-seater Cessna Skyhawk SP. The day began with dense coastal overcast, but by the 2 p.m. flight time it had burned off and it was clear and a bit hazy.
We took off from Watsonville and headed north up the coast toward Santa Cruz, flying at around two thousand feet. Below us were farmland, ocean, subdivisions, and forested mountains. We went all the way to Ano Nuevo Island at the southern end of San Mateo County, then came back, swinging south all the way to Moss Landing before returning to Watsonville.
Nick guided the plane, seemingly without effort, and pointed out the things below as we flew. It’s a perspective you don’t get from a commercial jet, and it gave us an entirely different look at the place we’ve lived for four decades. Up there, above it all on a beautiful day, doing what he’d always wanted to do, Nick was in heaven for an hour. So were his parents.
Postscript: After this article was first posted in February of 2013, Nick joined the Army May 6 of that year, graduated from the helicopter mechanic training program at Ft. Eustis VA and is now stationed at Ft. Campbell KY with the 101st Airborne Division.