My college friends used to let my boyfriends in on a secret. “Lynn’s a cheap date. Take her to an airport to watch planes taking off and landing, and she’ll be yours.” I’m pretty sure that some of those guys thought “being yours” meant something entirely different than my friends had intended. Sure, the excitement can arouse; but what my friends knew, that some men didn’t understand, is that the mystery of flight stirred my soul, it was something in which we could marvel together.
I was the little girl, who seeing an airplane in the sky, would stop everything and stare at the wonder of these machines, large and small, gliding through the air. Perhaps I longed for something to pull me up into blueness and fluffy, white clouds where nothing hurt you and all perspective changed. I often dreamed of where I would go if I were in the jet airliner or how it felt to be seated in an old crop-duster. Even after my parents took me on my first commercial flight and a thousand flights later, I am still enamored. I still look to the sky when the military jets race over our lake house, causing the windows to shake and deck to shudder.
I’m not sure when it happened, but long ago as I looked up at these various planes, I promised myself I would eventually learn about aviation and get my pilot’s license. That dream lingers in the back of my mind but after the birth of four children it has faded with the responsibility of caring for these boys. When they are older I hold onto hope that someday being a curious dreamer will be turned into the fullness of reality.
A taste of that dream filled me yesterday, however. I had the immense pleasure of “strapping on an airplane,” to use insider language. My friend, Dennis, is a former combat pilot for United States Air Force. I am very ignorant of ranks and such regarding the military, so I apologize for not knowing the exact “title” for Dennis, but let’s just say he is a seasoned and skilled pilot. He invited me to fly in a WWII PT-26 from an airport just north of Indianapolis to an airport just south of Indy.
When we walked into the hanger, I could barely take my eyes off of the blue and yellow beauty. As Dennis walked around every part of the plane, he explained exactly what he was doing and gave me a short lesson on the physics of flying this particular plane. He was meticulous about checking each feature of the plane before he even pushed her out of the hanger. I tried to absorb all of the information, but found myself overwhelmed that in a few, short minutes, I would be in the sky in this beautiful antique.
To my surprise, I was not the least bit nervous. A little back story here. I have known of Dennis for years, but we had only officially met the night before. We have about 100 mutual friends and when he sent me a friend request on Facebook, we started sending one another messages about how incredible it was that we had never met when so much of our lives had overlapped. All this to say, I instantly felt comfortable with Dennis and his capabilities inside that plane.
When we climbed in the plane, he gave me a tutorial on the stick and the rudders and the different control panels. He told me I could keep my window open (again, I’m sure it’s not really called a window or a sunroof, but I can’t remember the exact name), which I did. He showed me the safety features and what I would need to do if there was an emergency. Even then, I had no fear. Not even a butterfly. The only feeling that pulsed through me was one of sheer euphoria. So much so, that I was speechless.
As we taxied to the runway and then started to gain speed, Dennis spoke into the headset to explain exactly what he was doing. Every move he made, he shared the whys and hows. I listened as he radioed to the Indianapolis airport to see if we could use their airspace. He wanted to take me straight over Indianapolis instead of outside the loop. We gained permission and complete peace washed over me. I was transcended to a place I had never known before. A place where words barely exist and the ones I tried to utter stuck in my throat, causing me to simply murmur sounds of awe.
In a few short minutes we flew over the city toward the airport where we were to land. Cloud cover caused us to alter our plans and instead of heading into the southern airport for breakfast, we turned the plane toward the north, where Dennis landed the plane beautifully on a strip of grass between two neighborhoods.
I still couldn’t speak. This was somewhat troubling to me as I wanted to let Dennis know how much I was enjoying this slice of heaven, particularly from a woman who loves words and is never quite short of them. But nothing except an occasional, “Wow.” or “Incredible.”
We took off toward the original airport and Dennis let me have a hand at the controls. “I’m flying, I’m flying,” I screamed. Only not out loud. In my mind, I was squealing in total exuberance. But outwardly – nothing. Maybe that was God’s idea of awakening all of my other senses to the experience. Maybe he had to shut me up so I would stay in the reality that this was really happening. That while I may not have a pilot’s license and really only moved the stick less than a half an inch in either direction, I was there, closer to heaven, doing something that truly is a mystery. Something that although it works, is difficult to explain and understand in all its glory.
Even without words, it will be a day I feel in my soul forever. A day I’ll never forget.