We all know the feeling of an emotional flight hangover. The end of a pilot’s indulgence week! The shortest, fastest week of the year is the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And 51 of the longest, slowest weeks need to pass before we can do it again. We all slip away by plane, car, trailer or motorcycle…we were suitably subdued, packed and waiting for our trip back to the ordinary.
The WASP always stay at the Jesuit Retreat House on the peninsula of Lake Winnebago next to the sea-plane base. It is my most favorite place in the USA. And since it was Sunday, there was a service in the lovely chapel. I would challenge anyone with doubts about the Almighty (and their last flight) to rest there a minute and look out on the lake through the wall of windows behind the altar. I did and suddenly I saw an eagle fly past…and, as if to make sure I got the point, it did it again! (It turned out eagles had a nest nearby.)
Later, as we stood amidst our piles of luggage, a cell phone rang. It was the sea-plane base. The flight we had been promised, that was cancelled the day before because of the storm, became available again. Edgar Tello (E.T. to his friends) was flying and could we get there ASAP? Could we ever? Luggage flew into the car and off we went. Since all the other WASP had left, I was going to get my first sea-plane ride! There was room for four: the pilot, two other airline pilots and me!
Such a glorious day it was! After much standing around, picture taking, checking of people and planes, we all went to the slip holding the most beautiful Seabee I will ever see. I started to get in the back…surely these professionals would want in front, but no, E.T. told me to sit in front so I could fly! I couldn’t say “No, not me!” fast enough. I hadn’t had personal control of an airplane for 30 years and I had never flown a sea-plane. However, there was only one seat left, so what could I do?
We taxied out, made a dramatic spiral take-off from the lake into the most beautiful morning sky imaginable. The lake, the Retreat house, yes, the whole glorious world lay below! I have never been at a lack for words, but I was then. I was up there with the eagles in more ways than one. As we climbed, E.T. said, “I will get it lined up for you and I want you to make two ‘touch and go’s”. As I protested again, I looked down and saw tiny fishing boats on the lake. If those people had known our plans, I feel sure they would have walked on water to get away. Anyway, as the old saying goes “There I was…” So what could I do?
I DID IT!
Not once, but twice! I brought it in perfectly (well, I did bounce once but nobody screamed). I will never be able to write enough words to say what a thrill it was for me! I am 87 years old (and I look every day of it), but the years melted away because I was flying again! This wonderful man knew something I had forgotten – you never lose the thrilling urge to fly. Thank you E.T.! You gave an old lady a new sense of worth. I will be forever grateful.
Too soon we flew back to the base – lake and fishermen still intact. However, I am still mostly up in the clouds of the most beautiful last day of July, 2011 when I flew with the eagles!
Will I be at Oshkosh next July? You bet! See you there!