Let’s talk about love – the love of aviation. I’m going to speak to my life-long love affair with flying and airplanes. Many pilots and perhaps some non-pilots will see themselves in these small vignettes.
My love affair with airplanes started early in life. My dad was a builder and he recruited me at the tender age of three. He needed someone to help work in the controls on the airplane he was building, so he grabbed me, put me in the cockpit along with some rubbing compound on the control stick joints and let me play. And play I did.
Just a few years later, when I was eight, our family rented an airplane and flew out to Liberal, Kansas where our cousins lived. There are pictures of me in the right seat flying the airplane.
We moved to Wichita, Kansas when I was nine and our house backed onto a grass landing strip and had an attached hangar. Right after we moved, my dad was working as a sales manager for United Beechcraft and he seriously considered purchasing a blue Beechcraft Debonair 4-seat aircraft. He had one of his salesmen bring the airplane out to the house and I must have sat in that plane for hours. But we didn’t end up buying the plane and my young heart was broken.
From this time until I left for college, I was the official hangar go-fer, organizer and all-around helper when dad was working on the airplane.
When I got to college at Kansas State University in Manhattan Kansas, I found out it was affordable to learn to fly in that community. After speaking with my mom, I started taking flying lessons my sophomore year in college. I also fell into a community of kids my age or close to it that were also learning to fly or had an interest in aviation. I quickly got my Private Pilot’s certificate and followed that on with a Commercial Pilot’s certificate, Instrument Rating and, ultimately, a Flight Instructor’s certificate.
One of the more amusing things we did was go flying for somewhat spur-of-the-moment reasons. One of these “let’s go flying now” trips was from Manhattan, Kansas to Kansas City International Airport, which is just a bit over an hour’s flight time. While there, we ate at the airport and got a bowl of very good steak soup. Thereafter, the crazy trips at odd hours of the day were labelled “soup runs.” We did these soup runs more than a few times, perhaps the craziest one started after 10 p.m., and we didn’t return until around 2 a.m.
While in college in 1979, I met my wife-to-be. Our second date was in the cockpit of a Cessna 150 trainer and we married in 1980. We also promptly had kids and, like most general aviation pilots, experienced the “life happens” story.
Aviation is not an inexpensive hobby to have – my standing joke for years is that a drug habit is cheaper. What happens to nearly every non-commercial pilot at one or more times in their life is what happened to me – you have higher priorities such as kids, house, food, etc.
I was able to fly off and on throughout this time, but there were periods of years when other things were more important. Yet, that call of the sky was always there and every time an airplane went overhead, I’d look up to see what it was. We’d go to local fly-ins and airshows all the time.
As we got older, our financial situation improved, and I started back into flying. We even got to attend the Oshkosh Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin twice and if you love airplanes, this fly-in is the holy grail, the Mecca of aviation worship!
At this point in time, our financial situation was such that I would be writing checks for something on a monthly basis, either to the IRS or something to offset our income.
The “love affair” and “something” continues next month! QCBN
By Lance Leighnor
Lance Leighnor has four decades of experience in general aviation aircraft, and active management of rental aircraft since 2011. Lance is the managing member of Leighnor Aircraft. He can be reached by phone at 928-499-3080, by email at lance@LeighnorAircraft.com or via the Leighnor Aircraft website at LeighnorAircraft.com.