Flying Journal "A Little Joy - A Great Sadness"

I hadn't flown for 20 days, the longest I've gone without flying since before I was a CFI, over 4 years ago. I've had to cut back while I finished up my schoolwork so I can graduate, hopefully on May 19. Fortunately, Bill Cheek made me go flying with him.

Just as he and I pulled up to one of the north hangars at SGF we saw three guys getting out of a fancy SUV in front of a facing hangar. At first I was a little annoyed. They were right where we needed to pull our plane out. I was hungry. We were going to Bolivar for lunch, then shoot some approaches. As Bill was opening the hangar door, I suggested he could pre-flight in the hangar while we waited for the other guys to move.

While we waited the minute while our door opened, I stood outside and watched the other group. Their hangar door had opened to reveal a lovely Beechcraft Duke. A rakish looking twin, it's a big model step up from the "Duchess" which I have about a hundred hours in and I had last flown on April 1.

At least they moved briskly. They seemed to mean business. They tractored it out, parked the SUV in the hangar, walked around quickly sumping the tanks and checking the control surfaces, and got in. As my stomach growled again, I was relieved that we wouldn't be delayed long.

As I focused on them to see when they would start, I heard about the loudest roar we hear at SGF, except at airshows or when the Prez is in town. I looked half a mile down the runway to see a DC-9 at the rotation point. As it climbed very steeply over us, its deep jet roar "dopplered" past. The sheer power gives a rush. And for me, the second closest near-miss (near-hit?) I've ever experienced was with a DC-9. And thus for all the little boy visceral joy of hearing that sound, also a reminder of serious business.

As the DC-9 banked away toward St. Louis, the left engine of the Duke rumbled to life, that special rumble of a big six coming to life, loping a little, like a hot-rod with a high lift camshaft, just a little rich from the priming.
The sound affected my whole body with a delicious little chill, bypassing thought as directly as if I'd rounded a corner in the jungle to face the roar of a wild tiger. Then the other engine rumbled, ran smooth, and they taxied away.

The sensation was enjoyable and totally blew away my hunger and impatience. The sensation was so direct, it seemed to skip over thought, but in its wake provoked thought. The response was so direct it seemed like an instinct, but the sound of an engine is man-made. I suppose the deep percussive notes of a cylinder firing hit us physically like the bass notes from a rock band or thunder or the roar of a large animal about to eat us. The sound evokes both excitement and danger.

I suppose I am conditioned since my early childhood on a farm to love engines. In fact, that made me remember how my father adapted an infant seat to hang on the fender of a tractor so I could spend time with him in the fields. I suppose now my response to engine sounds is a conditioned response, like Pavlov's dog.
However it works, my mood changed from irritation to aviation joy, a better state as we coaxed our own little 320 cubic inch four-banger to life to commit our own act of aviation. So my mood was good and I was smiling peacefully as Bill flew us to Bolivar. The sky was about as clear as it gets anymore in Missouri and I remembered my "big sky" theory. It seems to me when you get out of the city or into the air above it, allowing your eyes to roam all the way to a big, distant horizon seems to be relaxing and soothing.

Boy, I do have the aviation bug bad, don't I? I'm still not in as deep as Richard Bach, but maybe when I've been flying another ten years . . . ?

Sadly, only four days after this little joy that reminded me how glad I will be to graduate so I can fly more again, I received a distraught phone call from Phil Horras, my gyroplane partner. He had just received a call: Don Farrington, our beloved flight instructor in gyroplanes and helicopters, was killed in a gyroplane crash on Easter Sunday at Sun-n-Fun in Florida! We would not have been so surprised if he had died in the experimental Carter Copter he had already crashed once on a test flight, but in his familiar and certificated Air and Space 18A? Cause of the crash is still unknown. Isn't that just like aviation? Needless to say, we are honoring his memory and grieving his loss. All I can say at this time is to be sure to enjoy the little daily joys of life while you FLY SAFELY!


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