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Sensing motion out of the corner of my eye, at first I feared that my scan, collision avoidance system, and luck had all failed me at the same time. I must have winced visibly, and probably turned quite pale before recognizing the apparition reflected off the inside of the bulbous Perspex canopy.
"You look like you've just seen a ghost," chided the ghost of Avalon Eden, as she materialized inside the cramped cabin of my new Evektor light sport aircraft.
"Avalon, am I ever glad to see you," I stammered as the blood returned to my face. "I was afraid that, once I'd traded in Son-of-a-Beech, you'd never fly with me again."
"Nonsense," replied my first and favorite flight instructor. "They haven't built a crate yet that can hold me."
I ignored the mixed metaphor, reveling instead in the vast expanse of sky, glad to be back behind the stick, and happy for the company of an old friend.
"So, how'd you make out on the stress test?" Avalon inquired.
"Passed it with flying colors," I quipped. "But at the end of the day, I just couldn't countenance the downside risk."
"So you just gave up on the FAA medical?"
"Gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em," I philosophized.
"Know when to walk away, know when to fly," Avalon sang in the worst Kenny Rogers impersonation I've ever heard.
After that rendition, we flew along for a while in silence, 2,000 feet above the rolling hills and Amish fields of central Pennsylvania, as the Rotax purred contentedly.
"Do you miss her?" Avalon finally asked, and I knew she was talking about my beloved Beechcraft. Twenty years ago, that same question had been about my ex-wife. Both times, the answer was the same: "It was like giving up a part of myself."
True, both times it had been a good run. Twenty years of marriage, which had produced two great kids. Thirty years of flying, coast to coast and border to border more times than I can count. In each case, I should have been grateful for what I had, and ready to move on. Instead, there are still times when I mourn the losses. Both of them. I was less than candid in my response to Avalon: "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But soon, and for the rest of your..."
"That won't be so long, then," my Guardian Antagonist cut in.
The fact is, I had lost a part of myself. Seven months earlier, during open heart surgery, they cut out more than just four blocked arteries. They also performed a flawless FAAmedicalectomy.
Fortunately, that grounded me only briefly. Thanks to the new Sport Pilot rules, I quickly returned to the sky. When I wasn't test-flying the occasional KitFox, Gobosh, Sport Cruiser, or SportStar (the latter which I ultimately bought), I was laying the groundwork for my new Light Sport flight school. The business licenses, hangar space, office lease, trademark registration, website, advertising campaign, insurance, permits, and plane were now all in place, and Grand Opening of AvSport was but a month away.
"How does Muriel feel about all this?" inquired Avalon.
"She's afraid I'm turning into her father."
I had never known my wife's dad. He died when she was still young, and I still in the Air Force. But I knew, and flew with, some of his students. I could tell from their stick and rudder style that Bob must have been one helluva flight instructor.
"Too bad he wasn't a better father," Avalon cut in.
"Hell, where'd you hear about that?" I demanded.
"That's exactly where I heard about it. Bob still talks about it often. And you'd better believe he still harbors regrets. We all do."
"Not me," I smiled, as I pulled power to idle and sucked the stick all the way back. The buffet before the stall break assured me that I was still Pilot In Command.
"Oh, but you will," winked Avalon as she jammed full left rudder and a wing dipped down.
I didn't mind in the least. I still enjoy practicing spin recovery. Stick forward, opposite rudder, power in smoothly and climb back up.
"Nice recovery," my flight instructor praised.
From which, I wondered. The spin? Surgery? Divorce? Loss of medical? Sale of Beech? Change of course?
"All of the above," I heard Avalon think, as her reflection disappeared from the bulbous Perspex canopy, leaving me alone with the sky, and my thoughts, and my plans, and a zest for life, and one great little airplane. "See you at the Grand Opening, sport."
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this page last updated 28 March 2010