Old Aviator Tales – Plane & Pilot Magazine | Aviation

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The underside of the wing catches the slanting morning light as I watch the world waking below. The limestone ridges light up first, leaving the valleys in deep shadow. Riding the butter-soft air before the thermals stir, I follow the old air routes that lead me across the high plains of the Llano Estacado. The morning smells of sage and cedar, cool enough to make me close the air vents. Soon the heat will force me higher in search of smoother air aloft, but for now, as the miles slip easily toward the next fuel stop, there is plenty of time to reflect on this latest adventure.

After a lifetime of flying for a living, it is finally time for one last logbook entry. Faded blue eyes that match my chambray long-sleeve shirt see an old man’s face reflected in the windscreen reminding me that time is a slippery SOB stealing opportunity and capability without warning, and that I had probably waited longer than I should have to launch this journey.

Yellow supercub bush plane taking off from a grassy field in Alaska flying low over assorted items on a campsite. [Photo: Adobe Images]

The airplane is much the same, having spent a lot of years working as a duster and bushplane from Texas to Alaska. It smells of hot oil and avgas and the leather seat is cracked and worn. The varnish is fractured and faded on the birch floorboards, and the scuff plates are polished silver from souls and soles dancing on the rudder pedals. Oil stains the patched yellow fabric, and the airplane feels heavy with all the gear I thought might be needed in the backcountry. It responds sluggishly to the control stick. But, like an old draft horse, it dutifully plows along the isobars carrying both of us toward an uncertain future.

I have decided there is much to be gained traveling this way, alone with no reservations, reminding me of the old sailors who set out in whaling ships leaving Gloucester and Boston for the back side of the world, not knowing if or when they might return. The…

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