"Whiskey Whiskey, cleared to Jamma Intersection. Hold as published. … ” I hear this as we’re climbing out of Lebanon, New Hampshire, heading to Tampa, Florida, with my 91-year-old mother in the back and at least two low-pressure areas in front of us on the route down the East Coast. The widespread rain and low IFR weather have me glued to the Avidyne EX500, so I just barely hear “Whiskey Whiskey is requesting 10-mile legs.”
“Wait a second,” I think, “that’s Bill.”
And it is. Whiskey Whiskey is a Cheyenne just a few days younger than 58 Whiskey, the Cheyenne my wife and I own. I am not sure I know why so much whiskey is involved with ancient Cheyennes, but there you are. WW is owned by my good friend Bill Wyman; he’s heading home to New Hampshire from Teterboro, New Jersey. Bill and I have just spent three terrific days together doing training at SimCom, so this is an unexpected gift. We sneak a quick hello on the Boston Center frequency.
“Hi, Bill,” I say. “Is this Eric?” says Bill. “No, Dick.”
Then a second later I hear Bill’s wife, Ro: “Hi, Dick.” Just as I begin to fear a sharp reprimand from Boston for clogging the frequency comes this inquiry from the controller: “Is this Dick Karl?”
When I admit to being the perpetrator of this colossal breach of radio etiquette, I am prepared for the instruction to call a phone number for Boston Center upon landing. But no, the command is “Be sure to mention how great Boston Center is and be sure to give a shout out to Alan and Nicki.”
OK, whew. As we headed into the gloom with 54 knots of headwind component, I was reminded of a similar friendly interchange the day before with St. Louis Departure. The headwinds did have their charms: I had plenty of time to reflect on flying, safety, recurrent training, flying friends and all the satisfaction that is associated with airplanes and the people around them. It is not my intent to be overly gushy here, but I struggle to find ways to express this appreciation that aren’t too sentimental. I’ve been told sentimentality is a bad thing, though I am not sure that this is actually true. (And Boston is a great Center.)
I met Bill more than a decade ago. He wrote a letter to Flying and I learned that he lived near my parents’ home in New Hampshire. I looked him up. We had an immediate affinity easily explained by our love of airplanes, but, because of a unique constellation of events, it is more than that. We’ve become the most unusual of friends. Every year since we’ve met, Bill and I have trained in Cheyenne recurrent courses and simulators. We can’t get insurance coverage without this yearly exercise.
Bill has had a highly successful business career and I have enjoyed being a cancer surgeon. We would not ordinarily be close friends unless we lived near each other (even then!), but our predictably repetitive three days in Florida have meant that we spend countless hours sitting next to each other in the classroom and in the simulator. Cheyenne sims aren’t that roomy; this is a close friendship.
Every night we unwind with a martini and a good dinner. We talk about everything. We cover kids, women, spouses, divorces, family triumphs and tragedies, business, money and, most consistently, the wonders of the turboprop. How often do friendships like that come along in middle age? I dare say that Bill knows me better than many friends I’ve had for 50 years.
Up until this year, this training has been at FlightSafety in Lakeland, Florida, but that training center has been closed and the simulators sold to SimCom in Orlando, Florida. What, I wondered, would the new venue be like, and what effect would it have on our annual training retreat? We were about to find out.
The SimCom building looked brand-new. The welcome was warm. An alert greeter had been informed that I had done Cessna 340 training with SimCom some 17 years ago; he reminded me of this much like you might get welcomed back to a high-end hotel. Right away it felt good and right away we went to work.