By Jay Wischkaemper
I find myself being practical a lot more than I probably should. I drive a cheap car. I don’t put many miles on one before I trade for a new one, but I also don’t buy all the bells and whistles. Why should I? I’m not going to own this car long enough to get attached to it anyway. If it has four wheels and runs, that’s all I need. I’m the same way with my aviation equipment, I own a handheld navcomm. It’s a cheap one. I’m sure if I ever need to talk on it, I’ll be able to. It just doesn’t allow me to enter frequencies quite as conveniently as one that costs twice as much, but then I figure I don’t do that very often anyway. Being practical can save you a lot of money, and you still survive.
I’m afraid I tend to be practical with flying the plane too. I look at it as a business tool, and the idea of spending money just to bore a hole in the sky doesn’t appeal to me. I have fun when I do it, but I have the same fun when I do it for business, and it’s tax deductible then, plus I get the added bonus of rationalizing that perhaps I make some money using the plane. Perhaps.
Today was one of those days meant for flying, or so it seemed. Light winds pretty much down the runway. Cool temps. Should have been ideal. I hadn’t flown in a while, so I decided to ditch the practical side of my personality and fly even when it wasn’t necessary or deductible. I was going to fly because I wanted to and because it was fun. I’ll admit it felt good to make the decision.
I drove deliberately to the airport and stopped by the FBO to get a new airport facility directory. I figured in case anything happened, it would look better if I at least had something current in the plane. A sectional didn’t seem necessary since I wouldn’t be over 15 miles from the airport. I wasn’t too worried about getting lost. I did plan to do some landings at Abernathy airport just north of town, and even though the Unicom frequency was on the GPS, I reasoned the feds would like me to have a hard copy. Besides, AFD’s are cheap.
One of the reasons I hadn’t flown in the last three weeks was because I had been sick. An upper respiratory infection had kept me incapacitated for a week, unable to do anything but cough for another week, and barely able to talk for a third. As I taxied to the end of the row of hangars to call ground, they told me I had a problem with my radio. I explained to the controller I had a problem with my voice, but I would try to do better.
I needed to do my three landings to stay current, but I had decided this time wouldn’t be like most currency flights. I wouldn’t just do the landings and head for the hangar. I was actually going to fly around after the landings. See a few sights. Handle the airplane a little.
Off the ground, I immediately learned that what appeared benign on the ground was anything but. What I would have thought to be a calm, smooth sky was filled with turbulence, a precursor to the forecast thunderstorms that would develop in a couple of hours. But I was up and had certainly experienced worse. A few bumps weren’t going to ruin my day.
I did a couple of landings at Abernathy. The nice thing about Abernathy is it’s close, but unattended. If your landings are lousy, there’s nobody to see. I’m glad there was no one to see, but we can use the plane again. After a couple of landings, it was aerial tour time, and it was fun. I didn’t go anywhere new. I’ve flown so much around here there is no place new. But there’s still a joy in looking down on what are now circles of brown awaiting the start of new life when warmth returns and seeds are planted. Modules of cotton still sit in fields, harbingers of one of the best growing seasons in anyone’s memory. Small rural towns dot the landscape like toys strewn around a child’s room, remnants of that time when transportation did not conveniently allow long distance travel.
As I looked down on the scenes below and in the distance, I was burning gasoline in prodigious amounts and the time clock was ticking with every mile, but for once, I didn’t care. Even the bumps didn’t seem to matter. I was having fun. Approach had turned me over to advisory frequency at Abernathy, so even though I was monitoring the frequency I would call to go back to LBB , I wasn’t talking to them. I carefully stayed outside the class B ring on the GPS so I wouldn’t have to talk to them. For a while, I simply relished the freedom of flight, experiencing the sensation of speed while rushing across the ground, enjoying the simple beauty of the earth below, sensing the subtle vibrations coming through the controls, listening to the muted rumble of the big Continental being muffled by my headset. There was no reason for me to be doing this, but then there wasn’t any reason not to. After all, I do own part of an airplane, and what’s the use of owning one if you don’t use it. All of us in the partnership berate ourselves for not flying enough and promise to do better, and for once, it felt good to be the person who was actually doing a little better. Actually having fun with the plane just to have fun. No purpose. No agenda. But also no guilt for using the plane without either. Just the pure, unadulterated joy of being in the air.
All good things must end, and as I heard approach talking to traffic which was obviously in my immediate proximity, I decided I’d better start talking. I called and admitted I was ready to come back in, and was immediately told to head straight for the numbers. I was sort of hoping he would give me a few vectors, but it was not to be. Area traffic dictated I get my tail on the ground as fast as possible to not conflict, so I complied. I wouldn’t have minded someone watching the last landing. Not a bad one if I must say so myself. Not bad at all.
I really do need to do this more often.
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 pleasure.