My wife Terri and I were working at Sears Corporate in Hoffman Estates in 1997. I was the Associate Buyer for Cookware and Terri was a Merchandise Analyst for Men’s Outerwear and Accessories. Working at Sears Corporate Headquarters was an amazing experience. We lived in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago where fun activities, restaurants, and beautiful countryside abounded. Each weekend, Terri and I would go and explore the surrounding villages, or we would trek down to the city to take in the art museums, restaurants, and the plethora of shopping venues.
We were exploring “things to do” one upcoming weekend, and in the local paper we read about the Air Expo taking place at Lake in the Hills Airport, just down the road a few miles from our home in Algonquin. “Terri, can we go check out the airshow,” I asked. “Sure,” she said. The following Saturday, I was excited and ready to rekindle my then, thirteen year absence from aviation. Walking around all those airplanes, checking out the interiors of some of those incredible machines, talking to pilots about their love of aviation was an amazing experience. We watched the airshow and folks I must say, “the Aviation Bug bit me once again.” On the drive home and for days afterward, all I talked about was my glory days in aviation and how much I missed it, and Terri heard what I was saying.
“So Eric, what would it take for you to be able to get back in the air,” Terri asked. “I guess I need to find an instructor that would be willing to give me an extended flight review and help me get back up to speed,” I replied. “So, your birthday is coming up soon, why don’t we do just that,” she smiled. “You’re kidding right,” I said. “You are so passionate about flying, and it is something you gave up a long time ago, let’s get you back in the air,” she grinned.
I began searching for flight instructors in the area and it seemed that most of the local instructors were “time builders,” looking only to teach enough to build enough hours in order to be hired by the airlines. I was looking more for an instructor who taught because he/she loved it. I was looking for someone like Evelyn Johnson, who cared about her/his students and the only time building they were interested in was the time they could spend helping a student become a safe and proficient pilot. With some suggestions from a few local pilots, I found just such an instructor, teaching at a little grass strip called Dacy Airport in Harvard, IL.
A few days later, I found my old logbook stored away in a footlocker, and with great excitement, Terri and I left for Harvard, IL. “Hi, my name is Maggie Dodson,” the flight instructor greeted me with a smile. “What can I do for you,” she asked. We exchanged introductions, and I told Maggie that I had been away from aviation for several years, and it was my desire to begin flying again. She asked if I had a current medical and I told her that I was going to take care of that soon. She then looked through my logbook, smiled, and said, “We should be able to get you back in the air soon Eric.” “Let’s get you working on some ground school study so you can get back up to speed on the regulations, flight planning, etc., and then schedule your first flight,” she beamed. I was so ready to fly again that I began my studies with a renewed vigor and commitment.
Despite the wonderful flight training Evelyn Johnson had given me, the thirteen-year absence from flying made me more than rusty with my flying skills. I needed to review the basics again, and Maggie was so patient. Within a few hours I was able to handle all the basic air maneuvers, and my landings were improving. We even flew a cross country or two, to help me re-discover my pilotage and dead reckoning skills. After about ten hours in the airplane, and after a thorough oral examination of FAA Regulations Part 91, Maggie said, “Congratulations Eric, I am going to endorse your logbook for your flight review.” “Welcome back to aviation my friend,” she said.
Since 1997, I have made a commitment to fly at least once a month to maintain my currency and proficiency. As a flight instructor, CAP Mission Pilot and CAP Instructor Pilot, I usually am able to get up in the air at least once a week, and sometimes more. For the past 21 years, I have not only flown for fun, I made the choice in early 2000, to become an aviation professional, and to pass on my love of aviation to others.
In my next post, I will share with you a few stories about my professional pilot training in Naples, Florida where I earned my Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot Certificate, Certified Flight Instructor Certificate, Multi-Engine Rating, and Instrument Instructor Rating. In future posts, I will share with you some of my adventures as a full-time flight instructor and now, part-time instructor. Stay tuned!