View From Above: The Crossing

Joining a master ferry pilot as she delivers a TBM 940.

Last summer, I turned 50. When my mother met the same milestone 24 years ago, she marked it with big plans, focused on doing things she either always wanted to or never before dared to do.

She went to Italy for three weeks—with just me along—an embrace of the culture she’d studied for her master’s degree in art, as a single woman with her daughter as a companion, directing her own itinerary.

She hopped on a Trek road bicycle in late July and crossed the state in which she grew up, during RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register’s Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa.

But her biggest undertaking that year drove her to confront a self-induced limitation she’d fought most of her life. Mom had been creating art—drawing and painting, mostly—since high school, but had never embraced the title “artist.”

To be a real artist, you have to put on an exhibit. She really wanted to—but it was scary to take that step. What if she failed? What if no one came?

As it turned out, the process of assembling the work for “50 at 50,” her exhibit at the Palette & Chisel in downtown Chicago in the autumn of that year charged her and challenged her—and transformed her.

After that event, she had little trouble calling herself an artist.

The sunset out of the flight deck en route to Iceland. Credit: Julie Boatman

Making a Milestone

Because of…reasons, I’d cancelled all of my big plans for my 50th year.

Between the ongoing restrictions of the pandemic, and the transformation of FLYING requiring a lot of energy and engagement, I backed off from overseas travel, from going out to get my seaplane rating, from gathering friends from afar for a blow-out celebration.

I was OK with that. What you see here at FLYING as we fly forward into our future has satisfied my need to do something big. Mostly.

When I had talked with him earlier this year about conducting a We Fly pilot report on the TBM 940, Daher’s director of TBM sales promotion Philippe de Segovia proposed a compelling alternative: Instead of going to the company’s location in Pompano Beach, Florida, to fly this graceful, powerful turboprop, I could fly over to the factory in Tarbes, see a more complete demonstration—and participate in one more thing…

I was invited to join master ferry pilot Margrit Waltz in flying the latest customer airplane back to the U.S.

The airplane ready to go in Tarbes in the final assembly area.

The Crossing, Fulfilled

But when? We made plans, only to see them vanish. Again, COVID, and the intricacies of traveling to Europe, but also owing to the changeable nature of delivery schedules and timing on my end.

In October, however, the mechanisms of the great machine clicked into alignment. Margrit would be taking serial number 1400 to Groton, Connecticut, departing on November 16. I could have the right seat if it were possible.

I was going. The dream I’ve always had of following in the contrails of pioneers before—from Amelia Earhart in her Lockheed Vega to the Douglas C-47s on their way to the European theater in the war—would come within my grasp.

My pilot’s analytical mind kicked into high gear. I had two weeks to prepare, logistically, physically, and mentally. I didn’t dare believe it would all come to pass until I was on the United flight connecting to Toulouse a few days ahead of the planned departure date.

My dear friends, it happened.

I collected so many stories along the journey—Margrit’s tales, the trip planning, the weather, the people I met at each stop…and those of the airplane herself, a marvelous flying chariot that didn’t miss a beat for more than 16 hours of flight over two days.

You’ll see these stories in the pages of our 2022 print edition of FLYING, on our social media channels, and illuminated on the digital pages of our newly launched website.

For now, here’s our start up at Tarbes on Tuesday…

And our descent over Cape Cod into New England on Wednesday.

Join me for the rest of the journey.

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