By KATE FERRARI
As the rush of fear set upon me, I froze. The propeller was so close, whirring around at an unbelievable pace. I could feel the rush of wind it was emitting, coasting over my neck.
“Katie, come on!” My whole body jolted into action as I snapped back into reality. I ran around to the other side of the SR20 and pushed the scalding, sun-beaten wing with all my might, slowly steering the plane towards the runway. The crew and I were last in line.
The rumbling thunder-like noise that was coming from various different airplanes, along with the blistering heat, instantly gave me a headache.
Only another hour, I told myself. As I leaned against the hot side of the plane, I felt as if I could melt. Aside from the fact that I was recovering from a raging fever that I had contracted earlier that week, working an airshow was grueling business. Ten hours a day, seven days a week, sitting out in the blistering sun, advertising a college that I wasn’t nearly old enough to attend was finally taking its toll on my already weakened body.
As I was mulling over how terrible my life was, I heard a gentle voice cut through the fog of my mind, “How are you feeling, Katie?” my dad asked. All I could manage was a groan and a half-hearted smile. I could see the tips of his eyebrows knit together as he thought about how to assess the current situation.
“Do you want me to call Mom and tell her to come get you?” Just the thought of having to walk all the way back to that stuffy, dusty, hot tent made me tell myself to toughen up.
“No I think I will be okay. Can we go get some water, please?” I said in a voice that sounded rather weak even to me.
My dad looked me over with a critical eye, “Yeah, but are you sure you are doing okay?”
“Yes I’m fine Dad,” I said a little more forcefully, becoming rather annoyed. He studied my face with a frustrated look, but finally gave into the fact that I am as stubborn as my mother and was not going anywhere.
As we walked over to the concession stand, I glanced around. There were so many airplanes. My favorites are the Warbirds. To some people, they are just some old banged-up World War II fighter planes, but what could I say? They have character. The thought that these aircraft had endured rattling battle scenes, but yet still stood before me in one piece was far too much to comprehend for my young mind.
The music coming from hundreds of speakers was barely audible above the noise of the thundering planes. As we got to the concession stand and got in line, I asked, “Daddy, can you teach me how to fly?” I saw his face instantly light up and he looked down at me. “If you help me build a plane.”
I took a moment, and thought this offer over. “Okay deal.” As we smiled at each other, I imagined what it would be like to really fly. I’ve ridden in airplanes before, but I’ve never been in control. I wondered what it would feel like to be one with the sky.
As my daydream faded and my Dad handed me my water, I knew that this was where I belonged, with people who appreciate flying and don’t think of it as a carnival ride, but as a lifestyle.
We started our walk back to the line of airplanes waiting to take off. I began to realize that this was my last day in Oshkosh for a whole year. My face obviously reflected the sadness that I was feeling, because my Dad asked me what was wrong. “Nothing,” I told him. I’m just going to miss this place, that’s all.
He put his arm around me and said, “Me too, Katie, me too.”
Katie Ferrari, 14, is an avid airplane enthusiast who plans on getting her private pilot’s license sometime within the next couple of years. She has been to AirVenture Oshkosh 12 times in her 14 years, and enjoys the innovative aircraft and meeting influential figures, such as Bob Hoover and the Rutan brothers. She wrote this story about AirVenture 2009, when her dad worked at Lake Superior College, and she was there representing the school’s flight program. She was just 11 years old.