Sunday, July 21, 2013

7SW (Seven Sierra Whiskey) 1

I spent last winter doing some serious soul-searching. After the loss of my Yak-52 in September and my close friend with it, I lost the stomach for sport flying. I wasn’t afraid of it—just not interested anymore. I wondered if I ever would be. I resolved to let time heal the wounds and then see if there was a new course to set out on. Maybe I’d buy a boat instead.

At times I felt ashamed that I was spending so much time and self-pity over material objects. My friend was dead. He didn’t take the plane with him to the here-after. There were more important things to ponder than machines. One of them was the question of, could I live a content life from now on without an airplane. Or boat, or whatever? If I could answer that honestly, then maybe the future would be clearer.  

I had had a wonderful run with sport aviation—years of the kind of flying most people literally only dreamed of. I reasoned I could be content with the rich repertoire of memories of flights and friends—plenty to fill a lifetime. Yes, I could be content. There were other things to do. Other ways to serve.

Just as I was getting used to the idea of putting light planes behind me an opportunity fell into my lap. Or was it just a shady temptation?

A beautiful RV-6 became available in Arizona. My old friend
Dave Vroom was keeping it in his hangar after the owner, who was a friend of his, had been killed in a crash in Alaska. Dave suggested I come and see it before the owner’s widow sold it to someone else. I put off the invitation for weeks. I didn’t have all the cash she wanted. Besides, there were hundreds of other planes on the market that I had enough cash to buy with the insurance settlement for the Yak. (Boats too.)


My interest level in the RV wasn’t high, but it was an opportunity to visit with Dave, which I enjoy doing. He always gives me a lift of spirit—exactly what a friend is for. So I went.

Dave and I spent a day looking over the “6”. We de-cowled it, ran the engine and pored over the logs and manuals. It was a fine machine—solidly built, beautifully painted and well equipped. It had less than 200 hours on airframe and engine. And it looked like it was doing 200 mph just sitting there. I couldn’t fly it because it had not had an annual condition inspection in three years. 

As Dave drove me back to the airport he said, “I thought this would be the perfect airplane for you, but now I’m not so sure.” I asked him what he meant. He said he didn’t see any eagerness in me. I thanked him, and he promised to try and hold the widow off until I made a decision. I came home more confused than before. I liked the RV but going to see it didn’t replenish the zest for flying that I hoped it would. I called Dave and opted out.

The winter turned to spring and my mood changed some. I began to see more planes fly in front of my house (I live on a hillside three flying miles from the field). Blue skies beckoned. Some days began to go by without thoughts of that awful day in September.

Finally I came to an epiphany of sorts. I decided I would not let George’s accident—horrible though it was—run me away from something that I knew I loved and had loved disproportionally to almost everything else since I was a teenager. I decided I would leave general aviation when I chose and on my own terms. That might be in a year or twenty, or whenever the Almighty sends the ultimate “stand down” order. But that sight of that Yak going down would not control my life. And, that’s the way George would want it, too. And as to the Almighty, he put the fire in me for flight when I was 13. Who was I to put it out?

I began searching Trade-a-Plane and Barnstormers. (I searched Boat Trader too.) A Cessna Skyhawk in Indiana
caught my eye. It was old but beautiful and affordable too. I showed the pics to Eleanor. She said I wouldn’t be happy with it. I e-mailed them to Pete. He said he couldn’t visualize me with it. I sent them to Dave. He said count him with the other two.

Then I found a very nice Grumman Cheetah just down the
road in Atlanta. It had new paint and interior, upgraded avionics, a low time engine, and I could buy it with cash left over. I called the guy and told him I would come see it the next week. I needed to fly a 4-day South America trip first. He said okay, but he couldn’t guarantee it would be there when I got back.

On the way down to Buenos Aires I pondered the Grumman over and over. And the Cessna. And the RV. Boats too. At times, that “ephipany” I had had would fade out and I’d just return that confused, indecisive state that I hate, but for which I find so easy to settle in to and await circumstances to take control. 

[to be continued]
I could get comfortable with this.

 "Life is what happens while you're busy making plans."
--John Lennon ("Beautiful Boy")


Anonymous said...

Hey Alan, I didn't know that George was flying your Yak when
the accident occurred. Sorry to hear about that. Keep your
head high, and don't give up on gen av! If you ever get to
the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, you might enjoy
the sim on the second floor (if
it's still there); it is an
enclosed capsule that rotates on
both axes, allowing loops and
rolls. Besides, a big boat needs a
Guntersville berth. E might prefer
the boat.

wayne in louisiana

Princess said...