Standing in front of our hangar, I can see the whole world — or at least my little portion of it. As late afternoon gives way to early evening, it is a good place to be. The March sun is bold, portending the summer yet to come. But instead of wearying heat, her warmth is gentle and caressing. The southerly wind flows across my body awakening genes gone dormant and whispers in her sultry voice that spring has arrived.
It is a fine day to fly.
Winter also is a good season to fly in the South. Often our best visibility days are during this time of year, but my very human body can’t resist the pull of spring.
It seems that spring arrives in a rush here. One day, the landscape is gray and bleak, and the next, the color yellow abounds. Jonquils, daffodils or March flowers, as they are known locally, brighten the countryside and their blossoming sparks a fury of activity. At the hangar, the mockingbirds twitter about to and fro in their efforts to procure a suitable mate and start the construction of a comfy nest. At home, the Old Man’s prized rooster, Red, struts about the yard with renewed vigor, and at the airport beloved airplanes are towed from hangars and tiedowns to the water spigot for a wash and shine.
Winter has been hard on Pickens County Airport in Jasper, Ga. John W. Murphy, a longtime fixture, became gravely ill and almost left us. However, his cantankerous self overcame his afflictions, and he continues to improve as the days draw longer and warmer. Closer to home, my own flying buddy, Boonie, suffered a stroke, giving us all a scare. He too mproves and looks forward to his first spring flight.
Unfortunately, these occurrences within our Front Porch Gang seem to indicate that our local private pilot population is aging for various and sundry reasons. As our airport grows, there is some young blood introduced, but their numbers don’t seem as prevalent as in years past. When faced with the issues of aging (and life in general), a new spring becomes a wondrous gift.
On my fine spring day, as I stand on the little isthmus of land that is now surrounded by development, I can see mountains old and enduring. I see clouds drifting by unfettered by gravity and a blue sky unmarred by a city’s smog. I feel the sun’s warmth on my face and the whispering wind in my hair. I hear birds’ songs in animated bursts. I can look across the way to the other side of the field and see open hangars with other pilots and owners fiddling with their airplanes. At that moment, in that little slice of time, I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be.
When faced with such strength of emotion, it makes me wonder about the politicians who now bicker over the fate of JZP. A mayor and a commissioner publicly battle over control of our little facility. It’s funny that no one cared when it was 3,600 foot and barely paved. Asphalt can be a pilot’s best friend as well as an aircraft owner’s worst enemy. But as I stand on my little isthmus of grass beside an airplane still warm from a couple of hours of flying, I wish they could, for just one moment in time, feel a little portion of what’s overwhelming my spring-starved senses.
Seeing the shadow of clouds over an awakening landscape, flying with an eagle over Mt. Yonah, flying with the wind in your face, your first landing, hearing Murphy talk about his J-3 Cub, seeing a formation of Ercoupes, flying in a Stinson Reliant, watching my Old Man tinkle his mains on the grass and hearing the whimsical sound of a puttering A-65, seeing the wonderment on a child’s face as he is lifted from his wheelchair into a sunny yellow Luscombe with a Beech-Robby prop, listening as Howard explains to the FAA that he was indeed dangerous in his youth, watching the artistry of Bobby Younkin and his twin Beech, seeing an old man’s eyes light up as he tells you about the time he flew this model airplane. Roll all that up in one wad of emotion and it still doesn’t encompass all that I feel on this fine spring day.
If I could take just a little bit, a small portion, a tad of that and share it, the world, at least my little portion of it, would be a better place. But the world is too busy to stop and feel it. It can’t be sent in an email or over a cell phone. It can only be found at little general aviation airports here and there. It can only be felt at grass strips and in the hearts of aviators. On this fine spring day, I was the lucky one.