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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Wischful Thinking

by Jay Wischkaemper

When you first meet Spencer, you’ll find out real quick that he’s about to be five. Of course, it’s four months before he turns five, but when you’re four, I guess that’s close.

There are some kids who are real brats, and there are some who steal your heart. Spencer is in the latter group. I’ve known his parents, Scott and Mande, since they were in college. They’re a wonderful family who live in Belton, Texas. They still have family in Lubbock, and on the occasions when they come to visit that family, we still get visits from them as their second family. It’s always a joy to see them. Last time they were here, my wife Dianna pulled out some old die cast airplanes for Spencer to play with. I’m not sure how into airplanes Spencer was before, but I’ve never seen a kid more enamored with them after he saw them. Because of how excited he was about those planes, I pulled out my headset and let him wear it. We looked at the GPS and listened to the handheld radio. I showed him pictures of our plane. We talked airplanes for an hour. He wanted to go to the airport to see our plane in person, but on that visit, time wouldn’t permit. I told him that the next time they came, maybe we could plan ahead and I could take him flying.

Friday night, we had a message on our voice mail from Mande. They were coming to town, and wanted to get with us on Sunday. The schedule was going to be tight, and I wasn’t sure at all that going to the airport with Spencer was going to be in the cards this time either.

We met at church, and went to eat afterward. It was a busy day for us. The Texas Tech women’s basketball team was playing, and nothing takes precedence over the Lady Raiders, at least as far as my wife is concerned. I’m not a big fan of the game under any circumstances, and especially not when I figure they’re going to lose, which I thought would happen this day. It didn’t take Spencer long to bring up the subject of airplanes, and to suggest that we might go to the airport. His mother gently told him there wasn’t time, and that we had things to do, but Spencer isn’t one to be put off. I sort of liked Spencer’s idea of going to the airport myself. Mande is a basketball fan, and was even wearing her red and black outfit–school colors. As I thought about what I would really rather be doing, I developed a plan.

“Mande, how would you like to use my ticket to the game, and Spencer and I can go to the airport?” Not realizing how much I would rather take her son to the airport than to take my wife to the game, she kindly deferred. After a few more attempts on my part to convince her that I would not be offended at all if she used my ticket, and after Spencer pleading with her with his “Mommy, would you please go to the game” line, she finally acquiesced. “Yes!” Spencer shouted. “We get to go fly.” I wanted to do the same thing, but it just didn’t seem appropriate for a grown man to yell that in a crowded restaurant.

A quick run by the house to pick up my equipment and we were on our way. “How much further to the airport?” he asked about six times. Finally we were there. The preflight completed, we boarded the plane. He wanted me to tell him what all the buttons did. We checked the flaps and the controls on the way to the runway. He wanted to know how soon we would take off. He also wanted to drive the plane. I told him that was fine. He also wanted to shoot down the bad guys, but I told him there weren’t any. “But we can pretend,” he said.

I explained the runup to him. After calling the tower for takeoff, I got confused on the readback because of Spencer talking to me, and I explained to the tower that I had a four year old in the plane. They understood my explanation of the four year old better than he understood my explanation of the runup. Cleared for takeoff, I told Spencer that I would call off the airspeed, and when I told him to, he was to pull back on the yoke. He pulled, but it took a little help. Once off the ground, I said, “Okay Spencer, it’s your airplane.”

Both little hands held a death grip on the yoke. He made a shallow turn to the right. We were going to fly over where his mommy was at the game. A few minutes into the flight, he told me I’d better take over. “Why?” I asked. “I don’t think I’m doing very good,” he replied. “You’re doing fine,” I said, “keep it up.” He did. Shortly after that, he said, “Aren’t we getting too high?” “No Spencer, we’re fine.” At the time, we were 1,500 AGL. “Are you afraid of heights?” I asked. “No,” he replied. “I just don’t want to get too high.” We made a turn. I pointed out a few sights. He asked when we were going to land. I could read between the lines. This had been fun, but he'd had enough. I called approach and told them we were ready to come back. Right downwind to 17. Cleared to land. Spencer operated the flaps. Not a very good landing, but we can use the airplane again. Spencer gave it an A. Sometimes people who are nearly five can be very kind.

Once at the hangar, we took some pictures. Then it was time to go to the FBO to get a Coke and wander among the planes on the ramp, and to try to explain why I couldn’t take him flying in one of them. Then it was across to the other side of the field to look at more airplanes. Then we went to the other airport in town. Next it was home, where he got out the Legos and we built more airplanes. By now, the game was over. Texas Tech won. I heard I missed a great game. But it didn’t matter. Watch the number 9 team in the nation beat number 1, or spend a Sunday afternoon at the airport with somebody who is almost five? No contest. Thanks Mande. I hope you enjoyed the afternoon as much as I did.

Texas native Jay Wischkaemper is a successful MassMutual life insurance agent based in Lubbock, Texas. He is a long-time partner in a Bellanca Super Viking, which he uses for business and

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