The Best Year Yet – Part 2


Flying my own plane had a collateral benefit. I found myself reaching out to people just so I could share my love of flying with them. Here are few of my favorite stories:

Susan finds herself

Southwest Minnesota State University

In the spring of 1988, Susan, near the end of her gap year, realized her passion lay in hotel and restaurant management. Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall Minnesota had an excellent program. “Will you fly me up to see the campus?” she asked. By now, if you’ve been reading read any of my posts, my response must be obvious. 

I did think it a bit ironic that she wanted to study creative food preparation when I had yet to see her eat anything other than Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. But history has proven Susan wise in her choice – she’s spent most of her professional life in food service.

Marshall, Minnesota, is twice as far as Des Moines where Scott attended Drake, so I was twice as hopeful that I’d never have to drive there. But that’s for another post.

Little trips

  • That spring, I flew to Dallas for a meeting. The trip was not exceptional as much as it was prophetic. On the way down I stopped for fuel in Springdale, Arkansas, never imagining that 30 years later I would be teaching at the flight school there. On the way back, my fuel stop was Columbia, Missouri, home of University of Missouri, where, 35 years later, our grandson Payton is just finishing his freshman year at Mizzou. Go figure.
Fair weather cumulus
  • One beautiful June day, Janet Wilcox, our art director, needed to make a press check in Effingham, Illinois. Of course I volunteered to give her a ride. And adventurous soul that she was, Janet accepted. On the return trip, we were dodging widely scattered, puffy little clouds. At one point she, giggling like a child, asked if we could fly through one of them. Knowing that it would be perfectly safe, I said sure, and took a 20 second detour through a cloud. She was positively giddy the rest of the way home.
  • On one of my not infrequent visits with Scott in Des Moines, we had a long-awaited racquetball face-off – winner to be treated to dinner. The game was nip and tuck, but in the end Scott won. My bitterness at losing vanished as I watched Scott’s elation bubble over at having outdone his dad.

My trip around Maui

Maui – a pilot’s perspective

With kids ranging in age from 3 to 23, Marie and I had a hard time getting all six to agree on a time to go to Hawaii. But we did. While there, three of the older ones joined me for a scenic tour around Maui in a rented Beechcraft Musketeer. The kids didn’t do real well with the bumpy ride, but the island is spectacular from the air. At one point, I thought the boys would climb out the windows to get a closer look as we flew past a nude beach. Made me laugh – the view from 500 feet up (about a city block) wasn’t nearly as titillating as their fantasies.

Another oil story

On my last trip in the Mooney, I had an unplanned stop. As I passed over western Nebraska, my windshield started to fog up. Not knowing what was going on, I made a precautionary stop in Lamar, Colorado. Landing was not a serious problem. Unlike driving a car down the highway, pilots get abundant visual cues looking out the side windows – even when landing.

But when I pulled up on the ramp at Southeast Colorado Regional Airport and stepped out of the plane, I could hardly believe my eyes. The entire fuselage was painted with oil! My first reaction was how lucky I was that the engine didn’t run dry while I was in the air!

Fortunately, Lamar had excellent mechanics on duty, and they found and fixed the problem in no time. A tiny nick about one centimeter long on the side of an O-ring around the propeller was enough to spray oil all over the plane. 

The big question in my mind: How much oil had I lost? 

Answer: Less than a quart! I couldn’t believe that less than a quart of oil had coated my entire plane. Would that I could get that kind of coverage when I paint walls at home.

What next?

By fall I had spent the better part of two years flying that fun little plane. Flying it all over the US. Flying in a wide variety of conditions. Flying a wide variety of environments. Flying over deserts and mountains. Flying into and out of many of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.

I was ready for something new. 

* * *

Questions or comments? Please leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you.
Any problems? Email me at

Total flying time to date: 976 hours

New types: Beechcraft BE-19 Musketeer, Cessna C-182RG Skylane retractable gear

New ratings: None

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