Saturday at the Aerodrome

By lex, on July 11th, 2009

‘Twas to have been three flights yesterday, which made bestirring ourselves from the manse not merely healthful, but also potentially remunerative. The Biscuit having asked for funds sufficient to support her planned entertainment for the evening, a musical cafe on the premises of UCSD. Certainly, I responded, and you can have the entire contents of my wallet, that sum amounting to $1 in folding cash and credit card receipts too numerous to mention.

Don’t spend it all in one place.

The first set bailed out though, and frankly two hops is quite enough nearing mid-July. The glass canopy of the little Varga makes for great visibility, but it does get hot in there. Greenhouses ain’t in it.

The afternoon set came in two pairs, ladies about the same age as your correspondent with two gentleman friends a fair bit younger. Turns out that they were credit union co-workers from Utah, which I suppose makes them Utahans since spell check doesn’t protest. One of the ladies was as giggly as a schoolgirl whilst I briefed, took many pictures under your correspondent’s arm before we manned up and as I settled her into the back seat of the machine she whispered to me that she wanted to share a confidence. I almost hesitated to ask.

“I want to win,” she said.

Well then, I responded, summat relieved: You’ve come to the right plane.

You’ve probably grown tired by now of hearing how perfect the flying weather is here in Sandy Eggo, once the morning dew has burnt off. A fresh breeze right down the runway at 10 knots, visibility at 10+ miles with only some lenticular clouds forming over the eastern foothills to give the sky some texture. Which we weren’t flying over that way in any case, and just as well: They only look pretty, and the tumbling rivers of air that form them can make for a turbulent ride.

I’ve flown the ocean route often enough that I scarcely need to even look around as I point out the local sights. Passing a thousand feet, there’s Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to your right three o’clock, where Top Gun was filmed. Straight ahead is Mount Soledad, the Mormon Temple there at 12:30. Mission Bay at 10 o’clock, Point Loma at 9:30 and then at 9:00 that’s San Diego Bay and the city itself. You can just break out the North Island Naval Air Station across the bay.

There’s a lovely little pleasure dome just north of La Jolla that I always point out to the guest pilots. I don’t know who lives there. Black’s Beach below there on the hill, where all the people who really ought to be wearing burkas go to shed themselves of all their clothes and whatever residual inhibitions they possess. Torrey Pines gliderport, the golf course, Del Mar and Solana Beach as we fly up the coast.

Both guest pilots took to the air like fish released into the sea, and neither got sick in the least which makes for a good day. My lady friend won handily on two out of three engagements, and we had to ease the power back a bit on the middle hack to keep it from being all three in a row, let the other lass have a chance to work on her gunnery. I was fulsome in my praise about her newly uncorked skills, which didn’t cost me anything. She tipped quite handsomely after we got back. Very much wanted to snuggle in for couple more photographs by the plane afterward. Asked me if I ever made it up to Utah, to which I had to answer, no. Not in years.

A harmless exchange I’m certain, while being quite happy that the Hobbit wasn’t there to partake in every particular moment of it. She’s Brazilian by birth, and has odd notions about mankind’s imperfectability combined with a dreadful facility with all of your sharper carving implements. Still, forty bucks is forty bucks and anyway it paid for the movie last night with a little left over for a snack after. I confessed the source of our new-found lucre, slept well and awoke whole in body and mind.

Which, that’s not nothing.

A couple of cold beers at Casa Machado’s with the other company pilots after the planes had been put to bed, both of them ex-military and former FA-18 pilots. It had been children’s day at the Armed Forces Aero Club, and Earl the Pearl had gotten eight flights with shrieking nine-year olds, the bagger. John and I had not only flown the dogfights yesterday together, but had patrolled the Southern No-Fly zones over Iraq in days gone by, getting shot at and occasionally shooting back. All of us retired from active duty now, but sharing the common bonds of service and aviation. With a foot in either door, we chatted in a quiet way about events military and silly-villian. Chatted too about the relative merits of aircraft types we have access to: Earl favors the 172 for its hauling capacity, while for my own part, I think the Cardinal RG is the superior ride even if she is a bit of a laggard in the climb. Cruises at a good 135 knots true once you get her on the plane, as much as twenty knots more than the Skyhawk.

Which, we had to admit, isn’t even rotation speed in the Hornet. You do get spoiled.

It’s been a year and a bit since I hung my khakis up for the last time. I have to say I’m still not quite used to it. Pitiable stuff perhaps, these reminiscences of past glories and the echoes we fashion for ourselves out of them.

I’m grateful for it anyway.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, Lex, Lexicans

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