My Friend Peppermint Patty

Airplanes may not be flesh and blood, but they make excellent adventure companions.

Peppermint Patty

Peppermint Patty

Peppermint PattyPia Bergqvist

Owning an airplane, somehow, is far different from owning a car, a house or any other high-ticket item. For many owners, the airplane becomes part of the family. And so it was for me.

I found my Cessna 170 in the middle of Michigan and picked it up with my friend David. David had hundreds of hours in 170s. I had none. So David took the controls for the first takeoff from the little grass strip where the airplane had lived for the past four years, and we took off for Peoria, Illinois. It just so happens that the airport identifier at Peoria is PIA.

While having a giggle over the fact that I would be landing for the first time in my first airplane at an airport whose identifier was my name, we started discussing what my new friend, the 170, should be called. The airplane had a nice, teal green stripe, and David suggested the name Peppermint Patty – Schultz's independent tomboy character from the cartoon Peanuts. The name was perfect, not only because of the airplane's color and the suitable character, but also because the Swedish name for Peppermint Patty is Peppiga Pia (the straight translation would be "lively Pia" and, in case you're wondering why this is relevant, I received my name in Sweden where I grew up).

We stayed the night in Peoria, and the next day we did a few touch-and-goes prior to continuing our journey to the west. Peppermint Patty definitely lived up to the Swedish version of her name. She was very lively and I had a hard time controlling her excitement to get back in the air. I think the first touch and go ended up being about four. I was thankful David was there to save me and my airplane. But the excitement made those first few landings forever imprinted in my mind. Peppermint Patty became my teacher and my friend.

Peppermint Patty made me a much better stick and rudder pilot, and, as my companion, she joined me on many adventures. We would regularly cruise the Malibu coastline, watching humans and dolphins play in the surf. She carried me and my mountain bike to Catalina Island, and she waited faithfully at the airport while I went for a long bike ride around the hilly trails. She took me to the Baja peninsula to go whale watching. When I moved to Kansas, she brought me there, like any family member would.

In Kansas, Peppermint Patty and I expanded our family with a yellow Labrador retriever, Cheddar. During one of the best weeks of my life, the three of us traveled around Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. We visited friends, went on long hikes, camped on grass strips and explored national monuments. When we weren’t staying with friends, Cheddar and I slept under Peppermint Patty’s wing. We even had to cuddle up on the floor of the airplane during a midnight rainstorm. It was a challenging sleeping arrangement, but at least we stayed dry.

My heart was heavy when I finally said goodbye to my friend, Peppermint Patty. With a busy work schedule, I didn’t have time to fly her much and decided she would be happier spending time with someone else. I put an ad in Barnstormers.com on a Sunday afternoon. By Monday evening, I had a check in my hand. Peppermint Patty now lives in Salina at a beautiful farm and is being flown regularly by her new owner, John. Just like some friends I’ve lost touch with through the years, I miss my airplane friend immensely, and I often reminisce about the adventures we shared.