Returned to service

Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia.

A member of the medical profession holding proper authorization and certification recently determined that some Best Management Practices for Aging Women should be applied to my person, since I am, of course, a classic. Like most mechanics, she grunted a little here, cursed a little there, removed a part or two, and promptly sent me the bill. Since I was eager for a speedy recovery, I paid graciously. A few weeks later, she announced me fit and returned me to service.

During my sojourn away from flying — that sounds so melodramatic as it was only a few weeks — I rested and frankly milked it for all it was worth. It’s not often a woman my age gets to watch a man cook, clean and do laundry, so perhaps I can’t be faulted for extending my rehabilitation just a tad.

When I was able to return to the sky, boy was I ever blessed. The Labor Day weekend in northern Georgia was just grand. I didn’t make it to any fly-ins or have an extended flying trip, but puttering around my part of the sky was mighty fine. A front and Hurricane Earl seemed to suck the heat and humidity out to sea with them. Our skies were blue, the temperature comfortable (at least by Georgia standards), the visibility excellent, and the air was calm. What more could a woman ask for?

I didn’t rush to get back in the flying saddle. I took my time. I gave Lester a thorough inspection. I actually did a good bit of light polishing during my recovery, so the airplane wasn’t left bereft of companionship, but the act of the walk-around puts my mind in flying mode. It focuses my attention to the matter at hand, not on family, grocery shopping, bill paying or school activities. It also focuses my senses. The walk-around is a time when my sense of smell, of touch and of hearing is sharpened.

When I lift the cowling door I can smell oil, mechanical, yet earthy. Gliding my hand across the old McCauley, I feel smooth, raw metal that will soon have the power of thrust. I rattle this and shake that while listening for the telltale sign of play or loose hardware. All my senses focus on this one act and this one moment, blocking out the world of the ground in exchange for a world that hovers on the edge of heaven.

My inspection complete, I pull myself into the airplane, and as I strap myself in, this mechanical machine and I become as one. After all my time in this flying contraption, rudder movements are now as intrinsic to me as walking. I taxi a spell to make sure there are no impedances in the controls or my responses. All seems well, and it feels so good to be back in such a comforting place.

While flying aimlessly around the sky has appeal this day, I do have a mission in mind. Having such a clear and calm day, I think a tour of the local corn mazes would be in order. I know of several, and the circle that such a flight will take me will be like an old dog marking his territory. When I depart, I turn to the east.

East from Pickens County Airport in Jasper, Georgia, takes me over what we southerners call “the mountains.” On the other side is a scenic valley where the area’s apple houses are located along Georgia Highway 52E. It’s a nice drive because you can stop along the way at various locations for hot apple pies and cold cider, which I did earlier. It’s a nice flight because it’s interesting to fly over the apple orchards and see Reese Corn Maze.

This maze is usually pretty good, but this year, it is touching. In a field of corn grown on what is surely rolling rocky ground, someone made a work of art. The horse was impressive, but the humbleness of the cowboy or farmer, hat in hand, kneeling at a cross made me pause and give thanks for my health on such a beautiful day.

From the maze, I turn Lester to the southeast and pass through the gap at Amicalola Falls. After the gap, the mountains are left behind and the land is rolling with some fields but more forest. I am a firm believer that altitude is your friend, and keep a little extra as I travel toward the city of Dawsonville and Uncle Shucks Corn Maze. This vegetarian work of art is a favorite with north metro Atlanta folks since it’s just off a major highway that “connects the metro with the mountains.”

This year’s design is a butterfly that is truly remarkable in scope and detail. The website claims that it contains approximately four miles of trails. That sounds too much like work as I float blissfully overhead. No thanks. I’d rather fly. The site also advertises a nighttime adventure through the corn patch “lit only by the clear blue glow of the moon” with a thousand screaming hellions. Hope Keely doesn’t hear about this one.

My next maze took me southwest toward the edge of the Atlanta Class B to an old family farm that is dying a slow death to development. The turn toward recreational farming has been the farm’s saving grace, but unfortunately the maze was not my favorite. It was all advertising. No moving or pretty designs, just names of local and national companies probably solicited to help pay the cost of the design. It was kind of sad.

The next turn was to the northwest and was one of my longest legs, about 25 miles. This farm in Georgia’s Limestone Valley rests not far from the base of Carter’s Dam. This site is unique in several ways. First the farm has its own grass strip as the owners are pilots, and the maze (leased by another farm) was once touted as the world’s largest. This year, there is no maze. Hard economic times seem to hit us all.

I fly from Carter’s Lake to the southeast toward the airport, but I’m not quite done yet. Corn Maze site No. 5 is just south of the airport and not far from my home. Yahoo Farm doesn’t have a large maze or a fancy one, but the turns and twists excite the folks who visit just the same. I know. I see the traffic there on my way to the airport.

The final viewing in my Corn Maze Extravaganza flight in a Luscombe 8E is just off the end of runway 34, Kernel Cobb’s Corn Maze. I use a left crosswind entry for 16 and cruise by for a look-see. I can’t make out the design, but it looks interesting enough to warrant another look when there is less traffic in the pattern.

Six sites and five mazes in four different directions add 1.5 hours on the tachometer (I don’t have a Hobbs meter). All in all, a great flight, a great day and a great way for an old girl and an old airplane to be returned to service!

Deb McFarland can be reached at


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