Oh, I’ve been sitting in airplanes a lot, in small, bouncy ones with one engine and enormous 747s that haul you heavily across the Atlantic. But my first real flight took place on February 17, 2011.
That day, Timm checked out a Cessna 172 SP at McClellan-Palomar airport, north of San Diego to fly across the coastal mountains and through the desert to Las Vegas. Having arrived one day earlier from Boston, I sat outside the FBO in the shade, watching with a mix of nervous anticipation, genuine admiration and a giddy anxiety as Timm flew graceful touch and go’s in order to update his passenger carrying permit.
My sense of an awesome adventure awaiting us grew as he taxied back to the ramp to collect our luggage and me. As we walked to the plane, the sun blazing, the air fresh and breezy with a few scattered fluffy cumuli dotting the expansive sky, I saw a man I had not exactly known before, possessed by a daring confidence balanced with calm and deliberate skillfulness.
There was the spirit of an explorer, about to boldly take to the sky, embracing freedom. Clearly, this aviator, my good friend whom I was happily dating, was completely in the moment while taking fuel samples during the preflight inspection. My mind settled into a calm and serene mood, feeling safe and content. The stress and anxiety of the preceding days dissipated in the clear, mineral West Coast air.
Yet, as we lined up on the runway, nothing could have prepared me for the burst of happiness and wonder as we accelerated and lifted off towards the silver-coated Pacific, then made a climbing turn towards the coastal mountains, a cluster of small clouds clinging to their sides, decorating their peaks. A gift of wings, this was a shared sentiment for sure.