Aviation pioneer Florence Lowe “Pancho” Barnes (1901-1975) developed a strong enthusiasm for human flight early on in her life. When she was only eight years old, her grandfather Thaddeus S.C. Lowe – an aviation legend who achieved fame as the Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps during the Civil War – took her […]
February brings fond memories of Bahamas…
Has it really been 5 years?
If wishes were horses, I would, I should, I might, or I already would be in the Bahamas!
Five years ago today…
Last year when we planned the Bahamas trip, we set off with a hotel reservation in Fort Pierce, FL, which by the way, we had to change since we departed one day later than planned. Of course, we did need to prepare ahead of the time: radio licenses for the aircraft as well as the pilots, decal for the aircraft, and eAPIS accounts to submit passenger manifests. That was the extent of our planning. I roughly planned what stops we would make on the outbound, so we could have a rough estimate of flight times to expect and where we would stop for fuel, food and customs. But that was it.
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Five Years Ago
“So, you are going to do it cold turkey?” asked Linda
“Yes, how hard can it be? I am going to be in the pattern…” responded I.
The last time I did a night flight (solo or otherwise) was 4 years and 10 months ago! While night flying can be fun, it is not a favorite time for me. Although with a good instructor or co-pilot, I love to get the experience to do some night flying!
It was a picture perfect fall day: warm, clear (for now) and busy. Earlier in the afternoon, Linda and I had headed out to the practice area, so I could practice my commercial maneuvers while she played safety pilot. It was a busy Sunday afternoon. After some steep turns, chandelles, lazy eights and steep spirals, we had returned comfortably back to the airport.
An hour later, after the sun set and evening twilight was about to set, I hopped back in the aircraft for some pattern work to execute some night landings and edge my night solo time closer to that required for a commercial rating.
It was a partly cloudy, and the waning crescent moon was not visible. I had deliberately departed prior to the official start of night time, so I could adapt easily to the night conditions. I looped around the pattern and decided to execute a touch and go for round one, as I adapted to night flying. Unfortunately calm winds meant runway 34R was in use, which meant right pattern!
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November is NaNoWriMo
“Is Amelia, here?” I asked Anne at the front desk. “She asked me to meet her here.”
“You must be John,” she said, as she continued looking at her screen.
“Wait,” she said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Amelia is not here. She is off in the field inspecting the avionics in one of the B737s, somewhere out there,” she vaguely pointed.
“Do you know when she will be back?” I asked.
“Maybe, maybe not” she responded absentmindedly.
“Do you like opera,” she asked after eons.
“What?” I asked in exasperation. What the devil is wrong with this woman?
“Are you seeing anyone?” she continued.
Before I could respond, the phone rang, and she was on the phone for a good ten minutes, talking secretive, absurd nothings. I was almost ready to give up and leave. What a strange group of people, I thought. How does Amelia manage to work with this weird bunch?
“How about Yanni?” asked the ridiculous woman interrupting my thoughts.
“What?” I asked stupidly. What does this have to do with Amelia I wondered?
“Can you let Amelia know, I was here? I will be at the Firehouse Grill,” I responded getting ready to walk out and leave this bizarre office.
I could hear strange sounds, as someone in the cubicle next to the front desk desperately controlled himself or herself.
“You must definitely like John Lennon. You seem the type,” continued the ridiculous woman.
“Yes, I like John Lennon.” I humored the woman.
This time, the person behind the cube, could not hold himself or herself any longer. I could hear unconstrained laughter. I walked around to see what the ruckus was, before Jane at the front desk could stop me.
Frank the assistant was doubled over laughing so uncontrollably that I was not sure what it was all about. Seeing me looking at him dumbfounded, Frank finally got his act together.
“Hi!” he said. “Amelia said you would come over at 11:30. Would you like to see how we prepare to return an aircraft to service?” he asked. “Amelia said you might,” before I could respond.
“Sure.” I said.
“Terrific, I am to bring you over so you can watch. It is pretty cool”.
As we walked over to the B737 undergoing checks, Frank made small talk. “Don’t mind Jane. She means well. She is just trying to figure out if your interests are similar to Amelia. You know she is a master matchmaker. She can’t stop herself.”
What? I thought. Yanni, Lennon, maybe Jane was not so stupid after all. I could forgive her if she was on my side. Was she?
“There, you are,” said Amelia. “We have been waiting for you. I thought you might like to see the process to return the aircraft to service. This is one of the first aircraft that has been scheduled to return to service.”
“Yes. I certainly would.” I said as Frank and I joined Amelia and Jack as they walked through the avionics checks.
It takes a full seven days to return an aircraft to service according to Amelia.
Although, what was foremost on my mind was whether I liked Yanni.
November is NaNoWriMo
“What are you doing tomorrow,” I asked, preoccupied with other thoughts.
“What? ” said Nathan.
“What did you say,” asked Nathan asked again.
“Oh… why don’t you come to celebrate Thanksgiving at my place? Amelia and I would be happy to have you over.” I said enthusiastically.
“Are you sure?” asked Nathan, hesitantly.
“Of course ,” I said. “You know Amelia, the more the merrier. Sri, Chung, Bob, several of Amelia’s coworkers will be there. I have invited several of my old coworkers too.” I said warmly.
“But, Frisco,’ said Nathan. “Are you sure…” as his voice drifted off. Hesitant to voice all that worried him. He eyed me, with a sad look.
One that I missed.
How could I have known what Nathan knew that day, what haunted him, and what bothered him that day. I was too carefree, my mind on Amelia, who had just accepted my proposal. I was oblivious to everything else. It was the fall of 2003, when several of us gathered together to give thanks. It was one of those last days of happiness we would experience in a long time. Maybe it was already late. I was lax in noting. I was preoccupied with Amelia.
I missed the most important cue in my life about Nathan. That was the day I should have paid attention.
I could have saved him.
November is NaNoWriMo
“I hear, you have a new Certified Flight Instructor.” said the sweetest, gentlest voice, I ever heard. “I’ve heard great things. I hear he is a great instructor, not like …” the voices faded,
“Yes, what of it, Amelia Mary Earhart? Are you ready to commit to lessons?” taunted Chung, loudly.
“You know it is not Earhart, but Aaronhart. Is he in?” persisted the sweet, gentle voice.
“Maybe,” replied Chung, irritatingly.
“Come on Chung, I want to talk to him, please,” begged the sweet, soft voice.
“For you anything, sweet Amelia Mary Earhart. Anything!” responded Chung.
After, what seemed ages, “John Francisco Adams!” barked Chung. “There’s someone here for you.”
“Hello.” I said as I turned around the corner as swiftly as I could. Being unemployed and in search of any student, I was desperate to get up in the air.
“I’m John. Are you looking for an instructor?”
“Hi, I am Amelia,” said the most beautiful, absolutely, breathtaking person I had ever come across in my entire life. I gazed unabashedly, awestruck by what I saw. It felt surreal. This can’t be real?
“I am looking to get my private pilot license,” she said. “I work at AvTech, on the field” she pointing over her shoulder to a large hanger across from the flight school.
“When would you like to start? Have you ever flown in a small aircraft before?” I asked.
That was how I met the love of my life. Although, it would take me almost two more years to get the courage to ask and commit.
Over the next few months, I taught Amelia to fly. It was almost towards the end of her flight instruction before her check ride, that I managed to find the courage to ask her out to coffee. We spent two hours laughing and talking, and then walked over to the diner for a burger and a pint.
Over the next few weeks, I trained Amelia and helped her obtain her private pilot certificate. Six months later, we were living together. Amelia was like a sunshine in my life, and I could not imagine my life without her. It happened so fast, that sometimes I wondered, if it was too good to be true.
Amelia worked at AvTech LLC. She had recently graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering from University of California in Los Angeles. AvTech was a unique organization. Since 2001 when the in aftermath of 911, the aviation industry had suffered immensely and airlines have gone out of business or retired their fleet, the graveyard came into being. AvTech had one of the biggest graveyards of all in the Mohave Desert.
For me, I couldn’t imagine my life without Amelia.
November is NaNoWriMo
I revolted. “Now, ” I asked.
It can’t be. I thought desperately. How can it be now. It was still premature. I hadn’t seen anything or suspected anything to make me think a change was needed.
“He is highly erratic and uncontrollable. He has been saying things. Once he had a drink, he is beyond control.”
“It’s Nathan! Dammit! We were in Nam together…”, my voice petered out.
“Are you telling me you wont do it? Is this the time you are telling me that you are not capable of doing the things you promised?”
I had gotten myself into things far beyond me. I couldn’t do this to Nathan. All the visions we had as teenagers, about country, about the world, about freedom, and all the good we could do.
Nathan, who had saved my life. Who was going to save him now?
“’I’ve spent the past 3 years researching and writing a book on the importance of a woman’s voice (Speaking Up: The Hard-Won Power of a Woman’s Authentic Voice). And a fascinating phenomenon has emerged, as I’ve begun talking about and showing the manuscript to other writers, editors, and professionals. I didn’t expect men to fully “get” how a women’s struggle for voice feels, any more than I can fully “feel” or “get” the pressure men feel to be a provider or suppress vulnerable emotions. But I thought they’d at least be aware that the struggle existed.
I was wrong.
In my 30 years as a writer, I’ve never encountered such a dramatic and total gap in understanding. There are no shades of gray here. It’s night and day. So what gives? I found a clue in one of the few exceptions I’ve encountered so far. The man who’s most intuitively “gotten” what the book is about; well enough that he could even elaborate on some of its points, also happens to be African-American. And I think that point is telling.
If you happen to be born into a group on top of the power structure in a society—which would still be white men, in America—you have fewer constraints on your ability to be yourself. Your group, after all, is the one that set the rules. And since you were born with the privileges that come with that power and freedom, you’ve never known any other experience. So you often aren’t aware that those perks and advantages aren’t enjoyed by everyone else.
It’s like a story a friend of mine tells about a beautiful young woman who goes into a pizza parlor. The man behind the counter, dazzled by her looks and trying to curry favor, gives her a free piece of pizza. After she leaves, she says to a friend, waiting for her across the street, “I don’t know how that place stays in business, giving customers free pizza.” Indignant, the friend exclaims, “They gave you free pizza???” The beautiful woman looks genuinely perplexed and says, “Well, yeah. Doesn’t everyone get free pizza?””
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