Nineteen years ago (1999), Terri and I left the Chicago suburbs and the buying offices of Sears Roebuck and Company, and moved to Birmingham, AL. This move came about, because we were offered and accepted buying positions with a large, growing, regional retail conglomerate. After we were settled in our new jobs and new home, I set out to find a local airport, where I could rent an airplane, and continue my aviation hobby. A quick trip down the road from our house, there was a great little airport with a 6000’ hard surfaced runway, and an FBO that rented Piper Warriors.
Now, most of my flight training and recent flight experience had been in Cessna 150’s, 152’s, and 172’s, and I had never been pilot in command of a low-wing Piper. After a thorough check out in one of the flight school’s PA-28’s, I was back in the air and enjoying flying with Teri in the beautiful skies of Alabama. After a few cross-countries, and many takeoff and landing practices, I was ready for another challenge. While flying one evening, and as I walked back into the FBO, I saw several Civil Air Patrol cadets in uniform, mulling around and waiting for the meeting to start.
I spoke with the Squadron Commander who was present and I asked, “Would you welcome back a former Spaatz cadet to work with you all?” He beamed and said, “You’re kidding right, let’s get you some paperwork.” A few weeks later, after fingerprints, a completed application, and new uniforms, I was back in CAP active and serving as Aerospace Education officer in the squadron. What a joy it was to put on that uniform again, to be working with cadets again, and to be teaching something that I so enjoyed.
It was this experience that would eventually lead me begin dreaming about an aviation career again. It was the joy of teaching and sharing the art of flying again that would lead me to become a flight instructor. Within a few months, the squadron commander asked me to serve as Deputy Commander for Cadets, and I readily took on the task. I also began flying the CAP aircraft and eventually completed a Form 5 Check ride, which qualified me to serve as a Transport Mission Pilot.
Although, this experience of working with cadets, teaching, and flying deepened my love of aviation, and did eventually led me to become a professional teacher of flight, our short time in Birmingham was not the end of the story. In my next blog, I will share the story of an unexpected move to Naples, FL, the time spent with my wife’s father, and the time when my professional aviation training began.