January 25, 2014 9:29:18 PM
People often ask me if I am still flying. When I say no, the next question is, "Don't you miss it?" My answer may sound unpleasantly snobbish, but it really isn't meant to be. I have not stayed current (the term for being licensed and eligible to legally fly an airplane) and I have no plans to get back in the air anytime soon, if at all.
My response is something along the lines of not being able to duplicate what I loved doing for so long and not feeling the need to fly just for the sake of flying. Sort of a "you can't go home again" sense of being about it, which is ironic since here I am, home again.
Let's be clear: Flying is an indulgent and expensive sport or hobby, but it is an exhilarating profession. It was one of the hobbies my father took up as a personal goal for himself given his physical limitations. (He had polio as a child and used crutches all his life.) It was also a way for him to thumb his nose at his own father's skepticism about his ability to do certain things.
My aunt tells stories about my grandfather's frequent and distasteful penchant for telling my father what he couldn't do because of his physical limitations, things like driving a car or flying an airplane. It proved to be an excellent motivator for him. I miss my father.
Sometimes I think my exploits provided a good excuse for Daddy to take up things he never had opportunity or reason to try. He introduced me to master archery, skeet shooting, horses, swimming, hunting, fishing, the piano and guitar, flying, tennis and test runs on things I can't recall. I'm sure he also figured it would keep me out of trouble during my teenage years.
Out of all that, I discovered I most loved horses and airplanes. I spent my early years riding through all the local pastures I could find or grabbing a book I could take with my horse to a favorite hill back behind the house to read and listen to him graze. I love the smell of a horse and the leather tack. I love the sound of hooves hitting the ground and the breathing that comes from his exertion for me. I love the softness of his ears and nose and the warm breath against my hand. A horse was my ticket to freedom as a child. I could get on him and be gone in a few strides to some other world or just away from where I was. I miss my horse.
Airplanes have been in my life for as long as I can remember. My father flew us to away football games and dinners in Jackson and Memphis. When I got old enough, I spent summers learning to fly out at Camp's airport where my father learned. Mr. Sumter Camp learned from Charles Lindbergh. Mr. Camp taught my father to fly, and I had a few lessons from him as well.
The summers I spent flying were memorable and challenging. There is a thrill and satisfaction of learning and testing and learning some more. My first solo flight came about the time Glen Campbell was singing "Gentle on My Mind." My first cross-country trip was to Tuscaloosa, Meridian and back. They're not exactly bustling airports then or now, but plenty challenging to a teenager in a two- passenger Cessna 150.
After I realized being a cowboy wasn't going to offer much of a career, I turned to my second love. From flying for personal enrichment to flying in the Navy to flying for Delta, there was always something that made me want to be at the controls of a plane. There was an addiction to the adrenaline rush during bad weather or challenging airports like LaGuardia or carrier operations in the Atlantic. But the best part was the great beauty I witnessed from the air.
From the air the breathtaking majesty of this beautiful country was there plain to see: the yellow of fall aspens in the hills just outside Salt Lake as we began our descent; the moon coming over the horizon as we started out to Boston from Las Vegas or the sunrise as we broke through the clouds after liftoff from San Francisco, the moon still rich and visible.
My work cubicle had an unparalleled view, a beauty that calmed the soul. I miss that kind of flying.
Lynn Spruill, a former commercial airline pilot, elected official and city administrator owns and manages Spruill Property Management in Starkville. Her email address is [email protected]
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