Like most writers, I have a job. Something I do to keep the wolf from the door, financially speaking. Frank McCourt was a high school teacher. Jack Kerouac washed dishes, pumped gas, and worked a farm. Kurt Vonnegut managed a Saab dealership in Massachusetts. Tom Clancy was an insurance broker. Me? I’m a pilot.
Writing fiction is something I truly love to do. It allows me the luxury of ruling the universe while freed of the constraints of time, space, and the laws of physics. Anything can happen. As long as the people and events I depict remain consistent within the confines of the story being told, I’m good. The reader is entertained. All is well.
Of course in real life that’s not at all true. Reality is very important to me on a day to day basis. The weather, the condition of the airplane, my own physical state, and even the mood of the person I’m flying with all come into play and affect my decision making process.
That may all seem ominous, but believe me, it’s not. It’s joyous. It’s something to celebrate. At some point in my day I’ll find myself well above the surface of the earth, motoring past flocks of birds, puffy white clouds, and maybe, someday, an actual UFO.
It could happen.
In the meantime, I’ve taken to enjoying my life and sharing my passion for aviation with anyone who will listen. To do that better, I bought a 1963 Cessna 150 a while back. I learned to fly in a very similar airplane. The C-150 holds a warm place in my heart.
After flying it to my heart’s content, I moved that first plane out of my hangar and made it available to a high school flying club. They use it to train new pilots and mechanics. It’s the perfect use for that marvelous machine.
Next I purchased a 1977 Cessna 172. The workhorse of the general aviation fleet, the C-172 is the Hyundai Elantra of the aviation world. Reasonably priced, incredibly utilitarian, and familiar to almost anyone who has ever flown from the left seat, it’s a fine choice for anyone who wants to fly for fun.
That airplane is now used by the members of a flying club located not far from my home. I belong to the club as well. So my second airplane is actually used by others more than it’s used by me. That seems just about right as far as I’m concerned.
Now, I’ve decided to purchase a third airplane. This time around the acquisition will be a 1940 Piper J-3 Cub. Originally fitted with a Lycoming engine, it now sports the more traditional Continental 65 horsepower model. The airplane has no electrical system so there is not battery, no lights, no radios, and no starter. It’s necessary to grab the propeller and spin it manually in order to get the engine running. It’s the aviation equivalent of popping a car’s clutch.
The Cub flies slow, holds very little fuel, and only seats two. It’s a nearly useless airplane…except for one thing. Flying a Cub is more fun than anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. The clamshell doors on the right side of the fuselage remain open during flight – at least they do here in central Florida where it’s warm enough to fly al fresco all year round. The third wheel is on the tail, not the nose, which requires the pilot to remain mentally in the game any time the engine is running and the wheels are rolling. In flight the Cub is an absolute dream to control, allowing for a level of freedom and 3D exploration of the sky that most pilots will never pursue.
Fortunately, the flying club I belong to has expressed enthusiastic interest in making good use of the Cub, too. That suits me just fine. Just as writing a book is an exercise of ego until readers discover it, owning an airplane is an often empty experience unless others can experience the elation of flying it, too.
I’m lucky. I get to write and have readers who share their impressions with me. I get to fly and have friends I can share the undertaking with. I get to mix both facets of my world to find real satisfaction in life. We should all be so fortunate.