Okay, apologies to Dickens for borrowing the title … but, what the heck, he’s dead, and there’s no copyright on titles. I could call this “Moby Dick” if I wanted. (Why, of course, would be a pertinent question.)
Perhaps I should call this “A Christmas Laurel” because all of it involves my wife, starting with a Christmas flight long ago, 25 Dec 2002, when her last name wasn’t the same as mine. I was flying air tours for Barnstorming Adventures once or twice a month. Laurel was interested in flying and I thought a first learning experience in an open cockpit biplane would be a grand Christmas gift. The company did not allow “flight training” in its airplanes – we would do “U-fly rides” with a customer who had a pilot’s certificate, but we were never to “instruct” because our insurance didn’t cover it. (Can you imagine the cost of insurance to provide flight training in a 1929 open cockpit biplane?)
So Laurel and I fly up to Palomar Airport – Barnstormers home for the first decade or so of its existence. We preflighted the Travel Air together, then fired her up and off we went. My logbook shows a flight that lasted 1.1 hours in Travel Air TA-4000 NC674H, a model of which sits above my roll top desk. As first “lessons” go, it was pretty standard. The entry shows merely that the flight began and ended at Palomar Airport, KCRQ, and no comments other than the squiggles I make for a first lesson indicating the four things one can do in an airplane: climb, descend, fly straight and level, and turn. ‘Twas a delightful way to spend part of a Christmas Day. The difference, of course, was that my schweetie was doing this humdrum stuff in an airplane that had been built two years after Charles Lindbergh had flown solo across the North Atlantic and, in the process, forever changed the world.
As I recall, ’twas a balmy day and we didn’t require an inordinate amount of bulky clothing as one might expect on a December open cockpit flight. Just for giggles, find the photos of Lindbergh and wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, after they arrived in New York in their new Lockheed Sirius in 1930 … now there were some bulky duds.
There have been other Christmas Day flights of note. In 2007, Laurel and I took our Golden Retriever, Skye, for her first trip into the sky. Skye dog loves anything seen up in the air: birds, balls, biplanes, blimps. She’ll wag her tail when a bird flies above her, she’ll run like a crazy dog when a ball flies overhead. She’ll look up and smile when she sees a biplane, and she was once mesmerized by the Goodyear Blimp when it flew over our home 6 or 7 years ago.
This logbook entry reads “SKYE TOUR” and, at first, I thought that it involved an air tour for the Barnstormers. No, ’twas a Skye tour, and she could not believe that she was up in the sky, herself, after admiring all things sky bound for most of her life. She was a well-behaved pup, wagging her tail the entirety of the nine tenths of an hour she spent in a Skyhawk I had once owned. Woof.
The last of the Christmas flights was a fun one, too. Bob and Steve thought it would be great fun if we could fill the Montgomery sky with cubs back in 2014. I believe we had seven in the pattern that day. The tower folks were bored – who the hell ever flies on Christmas Day – and were delighted when we requested a few bounce and go’s in the north pattern. Laurel and I were in our white and blue Super Cub, and there were yellow J-3 Cubs, a yellow Super Cub, a couple of red and white Super Cubs, and a khaki J-3 Cub complete with invasion stripes. It was a holiday Cub fest and participants and observers thought it a most delightful way to spend a Merry Christmas Day. May all your Christmases be as merry; your New Years, too.
Mele Kalikimaka and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!