In an effort to keep my blog post going and in the spirt of Fathers Day in June, I’m sharing my journey into aviation and how it has kept me connected with my dad.
A few months ago AOPA was asking pilots to share their stories on what led them to flying and I thought I’d give it a go here. Most pilots that I have encountered found flying at a young age or even are a second or third generation pilot. While I am a second generation pilot, the initial spark wasn’t necessarily family related, but certainly inspires me along.
Growing up I knew my dad was a pilot but never really thought much of it as I never actually had any recollection of him piloting a plane. We didn’t hang out at the airports and it really wasn’t ever discussed. In fact before I was born my dad was building an airplane in the very prototypical “home builders workshop”, which if you’ve ever been to the museum at Oshkosh they have a mock-up of what it might have looked like.
Having kids interfered with the dream to build and he never got much beyond some of the fiberglass forms needed to make the fuel tanks. We moved a few times, from Iowa to Colorado, to Nebraska and the back to Colorado. I remember the kit parts moving with us from home to home and with each move the parts seemed to be farther and farther apart. There still are some tools around such as Cleco pliers and rivets but everything else seems to have been displaced with the moves. Unfortunately my dad passed away in my late 20’s at the age of 58 and he never got back to working on that kit.
As for myself, fast forward about a decade later after he passed to about 2007. I remember very specifically going out to dinner one evening with my wife’s family and there was a Flying magazine sitting in the waiting area of the restaurant. As I was flipping through the magazine, I started thinking to myself - this would be fun to do. And that was it - the seed was planted.
Getting started really was about removing roadblocks out of the way from life. Picking up a Plane & Pilot and Flying magazines here and there I did notice that a lot of the failed starts had a lot to do with life events getting in the way. At the time, I was recently married, we were combining households and I had a basement to finish to improve the living situation at home. Flying became the carrot for getting motivated to finish our home basement. I got busy on the basement and spent the next year and a half finishing that project.
Initially my plans for flying were to fly only Light Sport Aircraft with the Sport Pilot license mainly to keep my costs as low as possible. And hey - the path to the Sport Pilots license was faster, and the planes less expensive to fly - right? I tend to absorb things a bit slower than some folks, and with a number of aircraft and instructor pauses, along with weather, the “20hrs to the license turned into many more than that… with of course the extra costs to go along with it.
Once I got my ticket, we purchased a share in our first airplane partnership. As my wife, Laurie and I flew more we both understood the importance of needing more… of well, everything. After a few years I worked on moving my Sport Pilot license up to a PPL, then the instrument rating after that landing most currently on my commercial rating. I started looking to longer-term goals. I’m reasonably comfortable in my career and knowing the airline life wasn’t for me, but ah - instructing could be the path. This will be the next series of steps for my progression in aviation.
A few years ago as I was going through some of the remaining boxes of my dad’s stuff and came across much of his aviation documentation - including his log book. The great thing about log books is it becomes a personal journal of events in ones life. My dad’s first flight was on May 2nd, 1963 at KCID, or Cedar Rapids Iowa. In all told, he logged only 129 flights from the initial flight to the final flight on July 26, 1969. From his first flight it was a scant 13 flights later for his first solo in a Luscombe Silvaire Deluxe none the less.
One of the other more notable flights that I noticed was a mere four days after I was born. Fortunately I was too young at the time to notice the conversation that took place between my parents at the time, but I’m certainly it had to have been, how shall we call it… lively? In looking beyond that date this flight made sense as shortly after that there were flights from Cedar Rapids to Kansas where my grandparents lived, Minnesota to where my other grandparents lived and another stop in Cherokee Iowa where my mom’s sister and her family lived.
The fact my dad was able to use aviation to introduce me to the world in the late 60’s and, even with his passing, is able to share this experience through these logged journals resonates with me today.
With my dad’s log book I went through and entered all of the flights and airplanes into an electronic log book to analyze the data even better and in doing so, I found a new mission for my flying. I am slowly flying into each of the airports he has logged time into as a way to sort of retrace my steps and his. Additionally one of the other sparks of inspiration, I started checking on the availability of tail numbers and found one available. I have since then, registered the available tail number for my upcoming build which will bear it’s identifier.
Normally this may be the end of the story. A few months ago an article caught my eye on Air Facts Journal which fit into the theme I had been mulling about for this article as well as the APOA outreach. I pulled up the article and started to read it (to read the actual article visit https://airfactsjournal.com/2021/03/the-logbook-a-generational-connection/). It’s a similar story, written by Keenan Gehman, of someone who falls in love with aviation at a young age and as an adult finally makes the journey.
What stopped me dead in my tracks while reading the article is the picture from his grandfathers logbook. My dad and his grandfather were at the same airport on the same day back in 1963. The odds of these two men being at the same airport and now I’m sitting here reading an article from his grandson just blew my mind. I immediately worked to reach out to Keenan and was successful. We’ve had a number of great exchanges via email.
In addition to our paths crossing this way, Keenan’s grandfathers flight instructor from back then actually is still alive and recalls his grandfather. The flight instructor doesn’t recall my dad’s flight instructor, who passed away a number of years ago.
Happy Fathers Day dad…