I must admit, when my firefighter husband, Jake, told me a year ago that he was going to take flying lessons, I was more than a little unnerved by the whole thought of it. I mean seriously, isn’t his job dangerous enough? Besides that, I’m one of those people who has a whole routine before I get on a commercial airliner — saying my prayers, leaving my husband little notes, talking to my mom before I board. To put it simply, flying makes me panic.
So imagine the fear that rippled through my body as my husband went out weekend after weekend learning to conquer my greatest fear. I’m quite sure I drove him nuts with the whole call-me-before-you-take-off and call-me-after-you-land routine, but luckily his desire to fly granted him some semblance of patience with my neurotic self. Of course I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d have to go up with him in that tiny little flying contraption that barely qualified, in my mind, to be called an airplane, but I thought I had plenty of time to put that off.
Then one hot June evening, Jake came home from a flying lesson with a bombshell of a question, “What would you think if we bought a plane?”
My response was, as I’m sure you can guess by now, not exactly one filled with glee. “Good grief, are you kidding me? Not only do I have to worry when you go up in one, now we have to own one? Are you trying to kill me? I worry about you on your job and now I’m going to be worrying about you when you’re off. Can’t you take up knitting or something?” I rambled on in shock.
“Only if I can knit on a high wire,” he quipped back with a smile.
And that was it. I knew he loved being in the air, and most of all I loved making him happy. As irrational as my fear was, it was real to me. But more than fear, I wanted him to see his dreams of flying and owning his very own airplane become a reality. That was simply more important than any toe-curling fear I might have.
Needless to say, he found the perfect airplane for him, a beautiful old 1947 Stinson. It didn’t take long before we decided to make the purchase and leap into the world of airplane ownership. Little did I know that buying the airplane was the easy part, now I would have to ride in a little airplane for the first time in my fear-of-flight-filled life.
We arranged to fly with Jake’s instructor in a Piper Warrior to Gainesville, Texas, where we would pick up the Stinson. I would fly back in the Stinson with his instructor. As you can imagine, the day was filled with a million nerves tingling on every end, his from excitement and mine from sheer fear.
We boarded the Warrior with Jake’s flight instructor. I said a million prayers, curled my toes up in my shoes, told my husband I loved him, and we taxied down the runway. Sure enough that little Piper was up in the air in no time and we were flying — I was flying!
Smooth as glass we floated through the air to Gainesville. I had lived in the area we flew over for 15 years, but I had never seen it like this. Pastures, cows, lakes, ponds, farms. I could see it all. It was absolutely beautiful. Flying was a wonderful way to dream and enjoy the beauty of nature.
It’s been over a year since we purchased our Stinson, which I affectionately call “Stinny.” Flying with my husband has brought me more than I could have ever imagined. When we fly he explains the air currents and how the airplane works, shows me how we can land on grass or pavement, and gives me a view into his passion for the air. I would never have guessed that flying with him in our vintage airplane would have made me a better flier overall, but it truly has.
While we still love a great road trip, we now have the option to take an “air trip.” We’ve flown the Stinson to Dublin, Texas, where we toured the Dr. Pepper plant, and to Fredericksburg, where we stayed at the delightful Hangar Hotel. And you know what? I really like flying. Most of all, it’s a great way to spend time together and just enjoy life.
Of course I still say my prayers, but it’s less with a sense of panic and more with a sense of peace and excitement about the adventure that lies ahead. The Stinson was once dubbed “the flying station wagon,” and that makes it the perfect airplane for us. Comfortable, family friendly, and filled with great memories. Who knows, I might even take flying lessons myself.
To see more of Barry Ross’ aviation art, go to barryrossart.com