You get two main reactions when you tell people you are learning to fly. My least favorite: “Why? Isn’t that expensive?” My favorite; “That’s cool. So tell me . . .”
It might seem an odd time in my life to learn how to fly, or maybe even wasteful/pointless to a lot of people. I’m a 36 year old mom and teacher with a two year old.
But, I’ve wanted to fly since I was 9 years old and saw a lot of grounded aircraft at a tiny airfield with low ceilings and marginal weather. I didn’t see any of them fly until we were boarding the school bus back to 4th grade, but it was magical. They were magical, there on that country airfield. p-51s, A Connie (little did I know how rare that was), a Stearman, and others whose names I would (and wouldn’t) learn, later. I learned about these planes the old-fashioned way, in the pre-internet world of checking out books from the library, and looking in our leather-bound World Books, 1987 edition. I watched Desert Storm unfold a few years later, and learned the names of those planes, too. I sent away for a die-cast Red Baron Stearman from Red Baron pizza boxes and it sat proudly on my bookshelf. My other prized possessions were my dad’s wings from his ROTC solo and his study materials, which 11 year old me actually read.
My aviation experiences were few and far between, unfortunately. I tagged along to a workshop for school teachers about integrating aviation in the classroom with my mom (a second grade teacher who went so I could go) at Columbus Air Force Base and watched T-38s do touch and gos, climbed on one and carefully peered in, peeked into a simulator, watched Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly video, and visited their meteorology section. The most impressive thing to me there? One of the pilots was a woman! Fast forward to my first flight at Pryor Air Field in Decatur, Alabama at the age of 14. I finally got to fly in an airplane, and it was fabulous! I don’t remember that guy’s name or much about the plane itself, but I remember being allowed to fly it for a few minutes. I didn’t fly again until a trip to Spain in college. I think I’m the only person on those Continental and Iberia Air flights that excited about being in an airplane.
I never stopped wanting to fly. I went to a few airshows and toyed with the idea. I was teaching high school and 7 months pregnant when I went to a Girls in Aviation event, talked to a few people, and it suddenly seemed possible. I began to read and study a little. Then for my birthday, almost two years later, my husband surprised me with “You should go for it.” So, I practice and think through maneuvers with my son’s wooden airplane, and he and I fly the pattern around our coffee table. The pilot of his toy airliner isn’t the man in the captain uniform, but the lady in the pink and red dress. I love to hear him say, “Mama FLY.”
The best time? Maybe not, but when is it the ideal time to do anything?