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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Wischful Thinking
Photo Flight

by Jay Wischkaemper

The plane had a new paint job, and I really hadn’t gotten the good pictures of it that I wanted. I’m not much when it comes to photography, but fortunately for times like this, both of my kids are very much into it. Both were home for the holidays, and I prevailed upon my son Jeff to go to the airport with me and take some pictures. I’m not sure why I asked him, but daughter Lisa quickly informed me that she was totally offended that I had asked him, and wouldn’t take any pictures even if I paid her. As tight as I am, she knew that wasn’t much of a threat.

Jeff has all the gear that is needed for such a venture. For you camera types, he shoots a Nikon N90. For those of you who like me who are not camera types, just be assured that it’s high dollar stuff. On the way to the airport, he was spouting off facts about different filters, trying to adjust his flash, and trying different shutter speed and light combinations. I told him that as far as I was concerned, filters were what oil and air went through. “And light too,” I was informed. Whatever. Just as long as it looks good.

We pulled the plane out of the hangar and taxied to a place with a more photogenic background than the front of an open hangar with a harvest gold refrigerator in the background. A few lenses, filters, and clicks later, the photos were done.

It was a beautiful day. Clear skies. Light winds. Comfortable temperatures. “As long as we’ve got it out, why don’t we go fly around a little?” I said. “Sounds good,” he replied.

The place we had taxied to was the former ramp of Wes Tex aircraft. Wes Tex sold out and closed the door a number of years ago, but before it did, it was the place where the majority of my aviation experiences had been. As a college student, it was Wes Tex that had rented me Cherokee 140s to almost get my license in. When we bought our Cessna 150, we parked it for free at Wes Tex. There are a lot of good memories of that old ramp and the now vacant building beside it.

As we crawled in the plane to buckle in, I looked at the 22 year old sitting beside me, with three days growth of beard after just coming in from a camping trip, and I thought about the little boy who used to sit in that seat. When he was young, I made it a habit to start my day at 6:00 AM so that I could pick him up from school and spend the rest of the day with him, and the airport was almost an every day stop. We would go out to Wes Tex, get a Coke, and look at the planes that were there. Until I got my license, we would go sit in Cessna 1991Z, and he would pretend he was flying it. Then the day finally came that I took the check ride, and we were able to really go fly. It was a special day for both of us. Every few days after that, we would take it for a spin around the town if the weather was nice enough.

He was a pretty good student of airplanes for his age. I would drill him every day on what the planes were that were sitting on the ramp. We’d look at flying magazines together, and he learned to identify them from pictures. It wasn’t enough to know the difference in a Piper and a Cessna. He had to know the difference in a 150 and a 172, and the difference in a Warrior and an Archer. One day I was getting checked out in one of Wes Tex’s rental planes for some reason, and Jeff was sitting in the back. “Look daddy, it’s a Swearingen Metroliner,” he said as one taxied by. The instructor in the right seat looked back at him incredulously. “How does he know that?” he asked. “He knows most of them,” I replied. And he did. Most 5 year olds would barely know what an airplane was, much less the difference in a Piper and Cessna and Beechcraft. They certainly wouldn’t know a Swearingen Metroliner.

When we flew, I’d let him do the takeoff, and let him fly it as long as he wanted to. When we would go on a cross-country, he had this bad habit of going to sleep on me, so he wasn’t much good after the takeoff. When he was younger, he asked so many questions that it was almost a relief for him to go to sleep. Trying to answer five questions while on short final with a stiff crosswind can be exciting.

As he grew older, things changed, as they always do. His interest in airplanes remained strong however, and many an enemy plane was destroyed on his computer. Any time there was a trip he could go with me on, he went, but with educational pressures, those trips were few and far between. The older he got, the less time there was to play with dad at the airport. He’s the type who likes to be involved in everything that comes along, so school took up most of his time. That’s okay. That’s the way life is supposed to be. They grow up. They move on. Now, he’s in college, and this isn’t home any more. When he refers to “my house,” it’s at College Station, which makes the time I do spend with him that much more special.
But for now, it’s like it was 18 years ago. He’s sitting in the right seat asking questions, and I’m sitting in the left trying to concentrate on flying. Since he now knows more than I do about nearly everything, the questions are fewer, and I actually get to ask a few myself. I take off and turn out over the town, much as I had done the day after I got my license. There’s no destination. There’s no agenda. We’re not going anywhere. We’re not seeing anything we both hadn’t seen dozens of times before. We’re listening to the chatter on Lubbock approach. Watching for traffic. Making a few comments to each other about something different on the ground here or there. He’s pointing his N90 downward taking a few shots. The church. The old High School. The stadium. We’re just burning gas and boring a hole in the sky. Spending money. Accomplishing nothing. Sharing the time. Enjoying the pure joy of flight for flight’s sake. It feels good.

Jay Wischkaemper was born and raised in the panhandle of Texas, attended college at Lubbock Christian College, and graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in public address and group communication. He entered the life insurance business in 1974, and has been selling life insurance ever since, with the primary company affiliation being MassMutual. Jay is a long-time partner in a Bellanca Super Viking, which he uses for both business and pleasure.
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