We aviators know how privileged is our view from above — we thrill to Earth’s vigor, form, and splendor on every flight. Yet few of us have the skills to capture that magic and convey it to others. I was reminded of that when the announcement arrived for Adriel Heisey’s new exhibit, “From Above: Images of a Storied Land.” You’ve likely seen Heisey’s spectacular aerial photography on public television specials, and in magazines like National Geographic, Arizona Highways, and Smithsonian.
Some friends called it “The Love Flight.” It was our 25th silver anniversary gift to each other, a month-long trip in our polished 1946 Cessna 140 to the site of our honeymoon on the other side of the country. My husband Tom and I were eager to take off into carefree skies with little to concern us except an occasional call to the home office. Wrapping up business, paying bills, and packing to be gone for at least a month is stressful, but I knew the moment we lifted off the ground in Truckee, Calif., it would be worth it.
It was clear and still, a beautiful day to fly. After three weeks, we were pointed toward home, and I couldn't have been more ready. The Black Hills looked green and peaceful, and we decided that Newcastle, Wyoming, on the west side, where dense forests are replaced by high desert, was a good choice for a fuel stop.
'Rat-tat-tat-brrrrrrrmmm, rat-tat-tat-brrrrrrrmmm!' I could scarcely believe my ears, for there, dogfighting over my head, were World War I fighters — SPAD, Fokker Triplane, Camel, Albatross, and Nieuport — marques I had read and dreamt about, and even seen in a few museums. But never had I guessed that one day I’d actually hear them fly.
It looked like a fair morning to depart Oshkosh on the final day of EAA's AirVenture. We entered Hangar B for a short meeting-just long enough to find a gray sky with threatening clouds waiting for us when we emerged. The 1948 Cessna 170 was packed tight with all our camping gear, and, after eight days using port-a-potties, my husband Tom and I agreed all we really needed was to fly far enough to find a real bed and bathroom.
'Pick any table you like,' said the waiter with a flourish. 'This is a special occasion.' Radiant, my wife made her way through two huge dining rooms, assessing mountain views through the chalet's A-framed windows. 'This one,' she beamed, making her choice. 'From here we can watch sunset illuminate Engineer's Peak.'
Flying cross-country in an old, slow airplane guarantees adventure. We have learned to be flexible, and, when weather or mechanical problems change our plans, to relax and appreciate where we are. Many flying stories are worth sharing, and our favorites affirm our motto: Fly often, stay open, allow fate to redesign the trip, and welcome any opportunity to improve on the original plan.
Magic! The whining of gyros gave way to mystical drums and rhythmic chanting, crazily mixing images of flight with those of ancient and sacred ceremonies. Chills traveled our spines - we could scarcely have been more astonished if we'd arrived by flying carpet.