Let me rephrase – Aviation isn’t always perfect. Yes your read that correctly. This coming from a guy that absolutely loves everything about aviation but i reiterate it isn’t always perfect. What do I mean by that? Not everyone loves flying as much as most of us pilots do and with that comes certain challenges when it comes to flying with passengers. Most people’s experience when it comes to flying is based on their commercial airline experiences but as we all know even that isn’t perfect. I’m not really sure what they think their general aviation experience is going to be. To be honest, I can’t really remember what my first thoughts of going up in my first general aviation flight were. For my fiancé, it’s getting to the airport, waiting in the FBO lounge, getting in the plane, flying, and getting out of the plane. It wasn’t always like that though. It took us a little time, some arguing, and some very quiet flights to get us to that point. It’s not her fault though. In the beginning, I would bring her out to the plane with me as soon as we got to the airport. I would unload my bag, meticulously set up, check, set and connect my Go Pros, set up my yoke mount with my Ipad, download the last minute updates, etc. Then I would start my preflight – all while she stood there in the 90+ June Florida heat! We would then get in and I would start with the engine start checklist, then taxi, then there’s run-up…..finally we would be airborne where the plane cabin would finally cool off. I look back at those days and think man no wonder she wasn’t always excited to go flying! She spent all that time getting her hair and makeup ready and by the time we were ready to depart the Florida heat and humidity had her sweating like we had done an hour of hard cardio! Now though, we have our routine it down! We get to the airport and I go out to the plane while she waits in the air-conditioned pilots lounge until its time to start the engine. Since then all our flights together have been great but as I said earlier…. still Aviation isn’t always perfect.
I had planned to take us to Cedar Key, Florida (KCDK) for the weekend. Everything was planned out. I had the plane reserved, the cottage for the weekend was booked, and we were excited to get away for a mini vacation weekend. The school I was renting called me the night before to let me know the plane had a flat tire and that they ordered the tube but it wouldn’t be there until 1030am. That wasn’t the ideal situation since we were planning on leaving by 8am but still no big deal. They figured that they would be done by noon and we could be up in the air by 1230pm. Well as most of us pilots know, things don’t always go as planned. We arrived at the airport and I made the rounds of introducing my fiancé to the FBO staff. We situated ourselves in the pilot lounge and then the questions began…..Is it ready yet? How much longer? Did they even start yet? Aren’t they just changing the tire? When I went into the maintenance shop to check on things (mind you I’m an Instrument Commercially Rated Pilot but that’s where it ends – I would be no help to them at all) I saw that they were having trouble getting one of the bolts tightened down. It was now 1pm and the Florida weather started to roll in but we were still ok if we left soon. For non-pilots the weather rolling in can be a scary thing – hell sometimes it’s a scary thing for us pilots as well! So now I began to ask myself, “Should we really fly now?” I kept checking the weather and it was building up just around us but it was Southeast and we were heading Northwest. The two mechanics looked at the bolt and noticed that the bolt was stripped and as Murphy’s Law would have it they didn’t have another one in the shop so we were officially grounded! At that very moment, (as if having only one of the main landing gear wasn’t enough) a lightning bolt struck what literally felt like right outside of the hanger doors. It had to be the loudest bang and flash I have ever heard or seen! The three of us in the shop literally jumped while screaming and yelling obscenities! In all honesty, I was probably the only one that jumped and screamed like a 12 year old girl!
Yup aviation isn’t perfect…. So I went back to the FBO and told my fiancé that we were going to drive. She honestly seemed relieved because a Florida thunderstorm had rolled in and she gets nervous flying IMC. We loaded our stuff back into the car and made the 2 1/2 hour drive to Cedar Key. We arrived around 530pm and checked in to this amazing little cottage right on the water. We were unit number 6 out of the 7 units in this little compound. We had agreed to let all the frustrations from earlier go because this was supposed to be a weekend for us to reconnect and enjoy just being together. We made our way into town and had some dinner and a few libations at a local seafood restaurant. Now that we were finally here, everything from earlier didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
The next day started off with breakfast (my favorite meal of the day) at a local restaurant and then we went to check out the airport. I was disappointed not getting to fly in and land there myself but I know I will get another chance. I had to at least stop by and check it out…It is after all the shorted paved runway in the United States!
We then went and met with Daniel, of Cedar Key Paddling to get ready to go kayaking. You want to test your relationship? Try tandem kayaking! We kayaked out to an island, got caught in another Florida thunderstorm, hung out at the beach on the island and then headed back in for a late lunch. All in all a great little afternoon. We went back to our room to take a rest and get ready for dinner.
On our way to dinner we had to pull the car over because we caught a view of one of the most beautiful sunsets we had ever seen! Yes everything seemed like it wasn’t perfect – the flat tire, not being able to fly like we planned, starting our mini vacation late, getting caught in a thunderstorm on the kayaks but now we both looked at each other in amazement. Through the thunderstorm came this sunset that painted shades of reds and yellows with a glow that lit up the sky and water. It was awesome!
Like I said in the beginning, aviation isn’t always perfect but you have to be able to see the sunset through the thunderstorms especially when you’re spending time with the ones you love! When you do that, then I can promise that your flight through life will always be perfect! Safe Travels!
President of On The Upwind Flying Club – Instrument Rated Commercial Pilot