The mission

One of the nice things about being a grandmother and a pilot is that I can say what I want in print without being unduly flamed. Southern gentlemen have a hard time chastising their mothers and grandmothers, so I plan to take advantage of that regional trait and verbally attack the noun “”mission”" as it is utilized in aviation circles, especially newsgroups, where I find its use kind of annoying.

Let’s break down my aversion to this word usage: First, the Merriam Webster Dictionary, circa 1994, states that a mission is…(I have to adjust my eyes a little since I’m not required to use reading glasses yet), let’s see…misplace. I haven’t done that yet. Mispronounce… my lazy Southern tongue has done that a lot! Misquote and misread…yeah, yeah what’s new? Misrule…the life at JZP. Oh, here it is…misshapen. No, that’s what happened to Jim’s Luscombe when he tapped both brakes on the landing roll. I’m looking for mission…

Mission. A group of missionaries: a place where missionaries work. Let’s go deeper…a group of envoys to a foreign country…TASK.

Hmmm…perhaps those Internet pilots who want to find an airplane that suits their mission think the process is a task. I know that my flying experience is not everybody’s flying experience; however, I don’t find anything about flying my Luscombe a task. Cleaning behind the toilet is a task. Picking up, sorting and washing the stained underwear and socks of fearless aviators is a task. Choosing and purchasing an aircraft is not a task. Furthermore, I don’t have a mission when I fly. That’s such a grandiose concept for the puttering I do in the sky. Perhaps my annoyance with this noun is a gender thing.

“”What is your mission?”" they ask. Why, to fly, of course. I admit folks do fly to destinations. They have deadlines and my type of flying is rather simplistic to some. While I don’t have a mission per se while in the air, I do have a goal once I reach the ground, which is the Holy Grail for all tailwheel pilots. I try not to ground loop. Other than that, my aviation experience is rather “”mission-less”" and not very flamboyant, unless one counts my landings.

On the other hand, once this time of year rolls around, I do have a mission while on the ground. I know by late winter I need to start thinking about the spring fly-in season, and as time goes by, there are more opportunities out there for us to experience. Now that there are more of us in our family, I have to take many factors into consideration when planning our flying sojourns.

Sun ‘n Fun (April 12-18) has been one of our favorite fly-ins over the years. I’ve experienced it as a passenger, a pilot and later as a flight of two. I have always experienced it onsite, meaning we prefer to camp with our airplanes to get the full flavor of the event. But now, I have to consider that this flight of two also contains a little munchkin. Last year we didn’t attend for various reasons. First, Keely was scheduled for surgery, and second, I frankly didn’t think I could handle the Lake Parker Tango with a 6 year old beside me providing critical commentary all the way. I was certain I couldn’t handle an extended camping stay with both the munchkin and her 50-something cohort needing contact petting and reassuring. Since last year, Keely has matured, but the Old Man has regressed. Kind of keeps things evened out.

Keely will be 7 when this year’s fly-in takes place and she is a veteran of several smaller fly-in camping events now. I’m not sure how she will react to five hours in a Luscombe though, but I guess a DVD player and her collection of Harry Potter movies could ease the way. I know she will love the atmosphere at the fly-in, but the walking and browsing will have to be paced. I will have to consider her school schedule as well. Starting the event at mid-week has not been a good change for us. In addition, I have to consider the expense of two airplanes and three bodies, which can place the event on par with several days of posh comfort somewhere else, like Savannah. I am a passionate aviator, but given the choice, posh overrules camping in the dust anytime.

For years we were empty-nester pilots. If I could plan it, we could fly it. Now, we are parents again.

Given all the factors I have to consider before flying off into the wild blue yonder, it’s nice to know that my fly-in choices are growing. If we can’t make Lakeland for whatever reason, we now have the Mid-Atlantic Fly-In in Lumberton, N.C., as an option. We couldn’t make the inaugural May event last year. Keely’s tonsillectomy, first scheduled at the same time as Lakeland, was postponed due to bronchitis and was rescheduled for the week of Lumberton. What luck! Hopefully, May 12-15 will be open for us this year.

If my nerve goes to pot and I decide that an extended trip with an Old Man and a Munchkin is more than I can handle as a pilot and chief cook and bottle washer, I can always turn Lester to the west about 100 miles and find a little grass strip called Moontown in the hills of northern Alabama. Every third weekend in May, EAA Chapter 190 hosts the Moontown Grass Field Fly-In.

When it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter where I go as long as I’m flying. Flying, after all, is my mission.

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