This ‘n That… wings of an angel

Back in the mid-70s I got a yen to get my pilot’s license. I did and the Grams and I made a few trips hither and yon.  She enjoyed being up there looking down and had no problem following our flights on the sectional charts and helping me navigate. She even took the controls now and then to let me sip some water or do my own sightseeing.

Death Valley Flyin Feb 2008

Death Valley Flyin Feb 2008

Almost a year later, she heard about the Ninety-Nines. Mostly, they were wives and significant others who either picked up the yearning for getting a license or, like in Grams thinking, thought it would be a good idea to learn how to handle the plane…, just in case.

Within a couple weeks she collected her student physical and student license and signed up for her first lesson out at Inyokern Airport, referred to fondly as IYK International by some.

Bob Mikesell, who had been my flight instructor, put her in the left seat and showed her how to start the engine. Bob was a no nonsense type of instructor. He helped her taxi the airplane out to the runway and said, “Okay, take off.”

Reluctantly, she did. I say reluctantly because Bob told me later in private that she said in effect, “NO WAY!” After fifteen minutes of sitting at the end of the runway with him arguing that taking off was the first step toward flying, he talked her into it. I know Bob did some of the controlling, he wasn’t that crazy, but for the most part, it was all up to the Grams.

That flight lasted 20 to 30 minutes. Just rudimentary stuff about what controls do what, some easy turns. Nothing exciting. Just putt around the sky. As usual with a first time student, Bob did the landing with her following through on the controls. When she climbed out of the airplane, she couldn’t have grinned any wider without her ears falling off.

The lessons progressed.  She learned how to take off without his help – required. She learned how to recover from stalls – required. Learned how to do steep turns without stalling – required. And learned how to land – really required.

Grams wasn’t the most adept of students. Mostly she was having fun and progressing, albeit slowly. We did a couple cross-country trips and she enjoyed taking the controls and letting me do the navigating. I wasn’t comfortable with her trying to land from the right seat, so that was alway my job.

One day, after doing a series of touch-and-go landings, Bob turned her loose to solo. The task was to taxi to the runway, take-off, fly around the pattern, and land. I wasn’t at the airport that day. In fact I hadn’t been to the airport for the last three days she went out for instruction. That was Bob’s idea. He told me to invent some reason to stay home.

She made three solo touch-and-go’s that day. And never went back for another lesson. She’d done what she set out to do and it was enough for her.

Back then, her aluminum wings were made by man.

Today, her wings were issued from a higher authority.