Words Aloft: Ashes Away – Plane & Pilot Magazine | Aviation

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The storyteller’s hands fly about, energetically reenacting a disaster aloft. “Wind was whipping all around, and the visibility went to zero! Honest to goodness, I couldn’t see outside for a long moment—it felt like forever!”

It’s a story I’ve heard told in any number of FBOs with minor variations, recollections of when a favor went terribly wrong. “I was laughing and crying and worried I would hit the trees because my buddy’s ashes were all in my eyes. The ashes washed out of my clothes, but a little bit of Don goes along for the ride whenever I fly now. I’ll never get all the ashes out of the nooks and crannies of my Cherokee!”

A family friend asked if I could help him find a pilot to spread a friend’s ashes over a farm. “If you don’t mind it being a weekday, I can help you out,” I offered.

Saying no when a friend asks for a favor is difficult for me, and I volunteered for the mission before even contemplating the machine I had available. My Mooney is a fine traveling machine. It’s relatively comfortable, quick enough, and efficient. I’ve crossed significant swaths of the country in it, enjoying the experience. It really isn’t great at flying low and slow; the wing on the bottom kind of gets in the way of seeing what’s below, and the only window that can be opened in flight is the pilot’s ice window, which is only a little bigger than a deck of cards.

In other words, it’s a fine machine for anything except trying to spread a person’s ashes across a farm.

A Piper J-3 Cub would be perfect, and I have enough pieces to build most of a Cub, but the fella’s younger relatives would likely need their ashes spread before I get around to that. A Cessna with an opening window would do, but try getting a Mooney owner into a 172. You’ll have better luck getting a McLaren owner to drive your Toyota Camry to town.

I needed to find someone with a suitable airplane for the mission, so I did the right thing and figured…

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