Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hans Look Up In The Air

The last day of the year seems like a good time for reflection. I think back many years when as a boy of eight or nine, I would hop on my bicycle and head for Laguardia airport (KLGA), some two or three miles away. My intent, to stand at the end of one of the runways, and wait for a landing plane to pass closely over my head. Close enough in fact, that if I could jump up ten feet in the air I would hit one of the planes wheels. DC-3’s. DC-6s and Constellations would scream by. This continued until one day a policeman happened by and pointed to cuts in the bushes at the end of the runway. He explained in a sarcastic manner that those were due to the wheels slamming through when the plane was a bit low. After that I moved off to the side and watched from there, avoiding getting squished by a landing plane. It was only fitting that one day I would end up landing at KLGA myself. There were two of us flying down from the Boston region in an old Cessna 172 headed for Flushing airport, a small field across the bay from Laguardia. Well, when we got there it was IFR and I was only a VFR pilot at the time. Fortunately, LGA approach control was in a good mood and helped us line up on the localizer and we landed safely. Finally back at Laguardia. Was anyone watching us land?

Yes, I was hooked on aviation from the get-go. While going for a walk, regardless whom with, if I heard a plane go by, I would have to look up and see it. I still do. My wife still chides me by saying “what did your father call you when you did that?.” Hans guck inn der luft, German for Hans look up in the air. Hans being generic for any gawker I guess.

Well my love for watching planes continued. As I grew older, I would beg my mother to drive us out to the Grumman factory, farther out on Long Island, to watch the production fighter jets getting test flown. My first flight was on a Pa-18 on floats on Fourth Lake in the Adirondacks. A thrill for a little kid and one I still remember.

It wasn’t till many years later that I finally started flying myself. At the age of twenty something, in the army, I began my flying lessons in a tail wheeler, the L-19 (O-1).
From there on it was a slow progression. Getting the ratings and flying at every opportunity.

After 40+ years of flying, I decided it was time to hang up my wings. I remember my flights and continue my love affair with aviation, albeit by looking up in the air.

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