July 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

I can’t find the logbook which would prove I’ve flown a plane, almost to the point of a solo flight, but not quite. I was seventeen, so it might have happened to someone else. I’ve been told those hours would count still, if I could find them. At this point, though, I’m not the same person who clocked them. For example, I remember very little about altimeter readings and lift, and all the things you must know to handle an airplane. What I remember is, it was so much better than driving a car! For one, no traffic. Imagine that. Then, the feeling of exquisite control–power even. Being able to say, “I can fly a god damned plane,” at seventeen just might have saved me. I loved touch and go’s, a tease where you land just long enough to take off again, as if to say, “You can’t catch me.” Flying took being different, odd even, to the sky. Most people couldn’t even imagine. They said so.

It wasn’t like I had a revelation and asked for flying lessons. It started, strangely enough, in my trying to please. My parents flew planes. It was that time in the world, the eighties, where people owned shares of planes if they were trying to seem upper middle class, which was part of the draw for my parents. The other part was much better. It was because of my powerful grandmother, my Gigi. She had learned to fly in the late thirties as part of the civil air patrol. She was in the Women’s Army Air corps in World War II, despite my grandfather’s resistance. She just knew her daughter would fly.

Flying was the one independent thing my mother ever owned in her life. She did it to please, sure. Still, it was proof of what she could be, what she really was to herself, to me. Hell, she could defy gravity, and do math, even though she professed ignorance of algebra. Charts and graphs, pre-personal computer, required a lot of figuring. When she flew, she was fearless.

I was looking for a book the other day, and I came across an old logbook that belonged to my parents. It didn’t say which one. It only listed the last name and the fuel spent. There were six partners in this Cherokee six, N32771. I rode in the back of that plane for more than one spring break. I can remember both my mother and father in the pilot’s seat, in equal measure. This is really the only evidence I have of that kind of equality. I threw up my quickly gobbled Easter candy one year, and my dad surveyed the damage and co-piloted while my mom safely guided us into the Macon, GA airport, where we eventually ate dinner in an old jet made into a diner.

I don’t know how many miles they flew, or if I will ever guide a plane again, but I know, as their favorite poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. says, they “have slipped the surly bonds of Earth/And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.” That is something I can truly understand.


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