Planes at the Swan

There’s an old saying that claims, “You can’t keep a determined pilot down.” Actually, there’s not. I made that up. Nevertheless, it fits the end of our summer to a T.

My pinched nerve finally healed, but because he was doing all of the chores for most of the summer, the Old Man’s ruptured disc flared up. Geez, it seemed we just couldn’t catch a break. This time we went directly into invalid mode. When his first pains started, I took over the driving and the mowing, and he concentrated on recovering.

The Front Porch Gang at the Swan. The last person is operator Steve Sester.It worked. By the time pilot Steve Setser invited the Front Porch Gang to his historic Swan Drive-In in Blue Ridge, Ga., for the premier of the Disney movie “Planes” the Old Man was doing pretty good. There was a group of about 16 from the Porch, not including a few kids and grandkids, who accepted the invitation to be Steve’s guests for the evening.

Going to the Swan is a big deal. It is only one of four drive-ins still operating in the state of Georgia and is particularly popular because it is located in the tourist town of Blue Ridge. It was originally built by H. Tilley and Jack Jones back in 1955 and received the name “Swan” because Tilley was stationed in England before being sent to Normandy and, while there, he greatly admired the swans often found in that country’s ponds and lakes. Jones liked the name because it was short and would look good in neon.

For our Front Porch Gang night, Steve asked that we visit his concessions (and who wouldn’t) and that we wear the free T-shirt that advertised his new concession creation: The Mayor Burger. “Double cheese. Double Meat. It’s Fat & Sloppy.” Who could resist a logo like that? Certainly not I and certainly not most of the Front Porch Gang. We gleefully changed into the shirts and promptly ordered our version of hamburger heaven.

Eating and Advertising. We do our jobs well.The Mayor Burger (Steve swears the burger is not named for any living mayor, more of suggestion of the character Boss Hogg) is offered with nine extra toppings, thus the potential to be both fat and sloppy. I ordered mine with lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapenos and mayo. I completed the meal with a side of onion rings. Medicals and weight and balance didn’t even cross my mind.

The Mayor Burger with a side of onion ringsSince our group was large, we were allowed to come in early, get parked and have our orders filled before the movie started and the crowd arrived. This burger looked so good that an early arrival in the front row stopped playing catch with his kid when he saw me take that first bite and came over to ask, “Do they sell those here?” With cheeks full, I nodded and pointed him in the right direction. The Front Porch Gang advertising mission was accomplished as he trotted to get his own while his wife reminded him that she had brought pizza. He ignored her. Completely.

I must take this opportunity to admit that the Mayor Burger and those lovely onion rings went straight to my bulging waistline. I had that particularly troublesome beast under control back in the spring, but after feeling sorry for myself for suffering the pain of my pinched nerve, I allowed my appetite free rein and now must suffer the tight clothes and a limited useful load. Unfortunately, this will haunt me during the fall fly-in season to come, especially when we camp.

It was a miracle that I was not in a food-induced coma by the time the movie started. We were also fortunate that the monsoon that had covered the southeast over the summer was kept at bay on this night.

I had read a few reviews from critics that were not particularly favorable for “Planes,” but I didn’t take much heed to those. I seldom like movies that get critical acclaim. I found the film delightful.

PlanesDusty Crophopper (appears to be a well-used Air Tractor) stole my heart. He wants to fly fast, but he’s afraid of heights. Ironically, that’s not odd. I have heard so many pilots claim they don’t like heights, but that flying doesn’t bother them, my own husband included.

We journey with Dusty as he strives to enter and compete in a round-the-world race. There are the typical cast of characters found in any kid’s movie. Ripslinger is the villain. Comparable to a fast composite straight off the track at Reno, he reminds me of the Most Interesting Man in the World character in the beer commercial.

Skipper, an old Navy Corsair, is Dusty’s mentor who becomes the teacher who learns a few things from his student. Friends El Chu, Ishani, Rochelle and Bulldog are all familiar aircraft to pilots. That’s what I really liked about this movie. It was fun, but I found the attention to aviation detail exceptional. The airplanes and locales in the movie were easily recognizable and realistic.

Was it completely accurate? Probably not. It is a kid’s movie after all, and too much detail and realism would spoil the story. Anyway, it was on my level. I flew with Dusty through his challenges, urged him on during his defeats and rooted for him to succeed. It’s a Disney movie, so of course he did.

Then again, I fly Lester the Lucky Luscombe, so my point of view may be biased. Nevertheless, 16 airport bums remained captivated for 90 minutes during an animated movie. Must not have been all that bad, and who knows, maybe somebody’s child will see those animated planes and realize that flying the real thing is cool.

Oh! Wait. Somebody’s child already has. That child would be me.


  1. says

    Great to read about PLANES my wife and I saw it in Oshkosh this year, great movie, and your comments were right on with us. Glad the “Old Man” is feeling better, take care and keep up the good work.

  2. Reid Sayre says

    Pilots and fear of heights: Someone told me recently that fear of heights is not fear of absolute heights that is the issue, but “fear of edges” or maybe fear of falling. If I am on a tall (more than about three feet) ladder or on a trail on the edge of a steep hill, I get really anxious. But if I am in an airplane, with belts and shoulder harness, there is no real issue. Even if the cabin is open, and I am securely buckled in with a five point harness, that’s OK too, even flying inverted.


    Deb you stole my heart. I love your sense of humor and I would also love the movie. The concept of the front porch gang really hit a nerve. I was brought up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire where you could walk into a country store and get a pickle from the barrel or a Lobster for a dollar. I do miss those times. Today I fly out of Centennial in Colorado. Gates galore, ramp passes, modern buildings and the loss of that atmosphere and wonder in flying out of a small country strip. Thanks for the memories.

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