Last flights are always bittersweet affairs when you know they’re your last in advance. In the case of my 1953 Piper Pacer, I didn’t know that the engine was tearing itself apart during the final flight of my ownership, or I never would have taken it. In retrospect, it was a memorable sendoff. On a Portland, Oregon, layover for work, my friend and Alaska Airlines pilot Duncan Roberts picked me up with his two young boys, Calvin and Bjorn, and we made our way to the Pacer’s temporary home across the Columbia River at Pearson Field (KVUO). We took off to the northeast, clawing all the way up to 8,500 feet while the terrain beneath grew increasingly rugged and Mount St. Helens loomed ever larger in the windscreen. Rounding the corner of the cataclysmic 1980 eruption’s crater, the boys exclaimed at the stupendous sight of the mountain’s innermost parts laid bare. I meanwhile kept a close eye on the engine instruments, aware that the only survivable engine-failure option was a ditching in chilly Spirit Lake. From Mount St. Helens, we flew over the remote Gifford Pinchot National Forest, down the Columbia River Gorge and around downtown Portland. A few days later, the discovery of a mess of metal in the engine sump during the annual inspection made me realize just how close to eternity our scenic flight had taken the four of us. I still get goose bumps thinking about it.