Flying: Learning to crash…who does that?

Today, children and teachers unfortunately learn what to do if a shooting occurs in their school, and in my day, we were told what to do if a nuclear bomb went off…the good ole Cold War — like hiding under a desk was going to save us!!

My father, The Evil One, was an awesome pilot. That’s really the only good thing I can say about him….Let me think…Nah, that’s it.  Anyway, we had, ‘crash drills’.  That sounds a little crazy, but I have to give him credit because if I had grown up and become a pilot, I probably would have done the same thing.

Our old 1942 Clipper was outfitted with marine seats in the back, the same kind you see in boats. They were actually able to come out, and if one had the wherewithal, (a 7 year old? I doubt it), you could use it as a flotation device.  Guess that gave him a false sense of security. He would go over and over and over what to do if we crashed. I was supposed to bend down, roll into a ball, dismantle the seat and put it over my head. I was also supposed to try the radio and make sure the emergency locator beacon was on. Now I doubt very seriously I could have done even one of those things. However, he made me practice it so many times I can not count. I just thought that was kind of funny, in a weird kind of way.

I spent most of my weekends when I was with my birth parents at the airport. I ran all over the place. The airport had a super museum, and I was so little that I could sneak around and crawl up into the planes and no one even knew it.  All of the folks there knew me, so I was also in the control room a lot, and even knew some strange things for a little kid: like how to turn on the runway lights at night. (They are probably automatic now), how to file a flight plan, how to navigate the old fashioned way with a MAP, not GPS…I was allowed to sit in the control room and wear a headset, and listen to the air traffic. I always thought of it as normal. As I think back, it was actually very abnormal for a little girl! Sometimes I would wander into the snack bar, but the ladies were boring. I liked the control room best. When instructors would come into the airport and have their students with them, I had to be very quiet and not point out their take offs were awful, they had to get more air speed beneath their wings, and when I would watch people practice landings, I did much eye rolling. I really thought adults were pretty dumb…

I learned to navigate when my my birth mother could no longer fly because she had MS. I was the ‘official spotter’ of other planes, and knew every checkpoint from Virginia to Georgia.  I often wonder that if I didn’t have kids so young, if I would have become a pilot.

I guess aviation is in my blood so to speak. As planes fly by overhead, I still watch them, naming them, and still remember our old call letters.  When bad weather rolls in and I see someone taking off from our local airport, I still give them a shudder and an eye roll…

More flying tales to come…

 

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