The sky was clear, the air was crisp, and the excitement of taking my first flight lesson had been stirring in me for days. I was nervous and yet, I could not wait to learn all I could about this new adventure. When Dad and I arrived at the airport, I had to wait for quite some time until my he finished his flying lesson, before I could take to the air. I sat in a large leather sofa that faced the huge console television, and thumbed through the plethora of aviation magazines sitting on the coffee table. The smell of coffee and cigarettes permeated the room. I overheard pilots nearby talking about their latest adventures of “blowing a tire on landing,” or “that terrible weather that nearly killed them.” For a young man, only 15 years old, these were tall tales of adventure and danger that stirred the anxiety and at the same time, drew me to this avocation even more.
Evelyn (my father’s flight instructor) and my Dad walked back into the airport office, sat down at a nearby table, and “de-briefed the lesson.” “Bud, on climbs, you need to apply a little more right rudder to counteract the left-turning tendencies of the aircraft,” Evelyn explained. “You did a fine job on your approach to landing, and I believe you may have the landings, pretty well under your belt,” she applauded. “Good job Bud,” she said. Wow, she was a good instructor. I was excited now and felt even more at ease about this new adventure.
Evelyn signed my father’s logbook, and then she looked at me and said, “Eric, I am Evelyn. Please call me Evelyn. “Are you ready to become a pilot,” she asked. Nervously, I said, “Yes, ma’am.” Evelyn instructed, “Alright then, let’s talk for a while, we’ll grab those cushions over there, and then I will show you how to pre-flight the airplane,” she smiled and spoke with a grin. “Cushions,” I thought. Why in the world, would we need cushions? I soon learned that as a young 15 year old, and even for my 70-year-old flight instructor, we were of a stature that required a little boost in the seat, in order to see over the cowling of the airplane. A skill, which I would soon learn was critical to becoming a pilot. Sometimes in our lives, we need a little boost.
You know, we all need someone to lift us up, so we can see the gift we are and the person only others see in us. Evelyn did just that for me, at a time when as a teen, I was so uncertain and discouraged. She was so more than my flight instructor; she was my mentor, my teacher, and my friend. The cushions we took to the airplane reminded me that although my feet barely touched the rudder pedals, and my height could have been a hindrance to my flight training; Evelyn offered me the assistance I need to meet my goal.
In my next blog post, I will share with you a little more about my experience taking flying lessons from this legend pilot and instructor. The lessons she taught me still ring in my ears today, when I fly, when I teach, and when I interact with others.
My next post will be after Christmas. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas my friends.