My hangar landlord has a passion. Not for women, money or fame, but I’d deduce his passion is just as ardent and just as satisfying as any of the aforementioned obsessions. Lloyd Thompson has a grand passion for Aeronca Champions, but not just any Champ. His favorite are the military versions, the L-16A and the L-16B.
The past several weeks have brought some great flying weather to northern Georgia, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to take advantage of those precious flying days. Henry’s mom or “Granny,” as she is known in our house, has taken a turn for the worse. It’s gardening season, and I know the last place she wishes to be is in a hospital with tubes and needles stuck in tender places.
As a result, quiet moments at home have become rare, and invigorating moments at the airport are nonexistent, but when circumstances have allowed I have found comfort and escape reading the online group affectionately known as the Luscombe List.
Our list is a prolific one, and thanks to some Internet-savvy founders, an old one. We discuss various topics of aviation importance: Imperial valves, Goodyear brake parts availability and the ever-trendy sagging Oleo spring saga. But we also share our lives, and like the soap operas of old, we are a family.
As Sun ‘n Fun 2010 prepares to kick, our Short Final columnist Deb McFarland reminisces about past fly-ins:
If I were feeling perky, I would quip that the sun is shining, the air is warming and spring is finally here. It’s kind of hard to be perky after this past winter with its days of dreary cold and persistent wind. Instead, I feel more like demanding, “Spring, what the heck took you so long?”
Perhaps I’m a tad more curmudgeon than I thought.
My annoyance aside, April is here and the beginning of fly-in season is upon us. During our years as empty nesters, this meant flying down to Sun ’n Fun in Lakeland for the annual aviation rite of spring. For many of us at JZP, we’d spend weeks preparing our airplanes and our bodies for a week of sun and airplanes in lovely central Florida.
Since Keely came along, however, I can’t seem to convince our local board of education that the county’s spring break should correspond with this event. In fact, they don’t seem to mind that their scheduled breaks don’t correspond with any of the fly-ins that the McFarland clan enjoys, including Oshkosh, the big daddy of them all.
They don’t consider these type of events educational field trips, either. There are no excused absences for flying, only illness of the child or death in the immediate family. One can only kill off parents and siblings once before suspicions are raised, and Keely has already suffered the plague, malaria, typhoid and H1N1. We don’t dare push our luck.
So while there is no Sun ’n Fun in our immediate future, we are still traveling down to the Panhandle for a few days of beach bumming and a stop at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. We even hope to catch the Blue Angels practicing their air show on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning while we’re there.
All this reflection of Sun ’n Funs past got me thinking about the years the Old Man and I flew there with friends, camped under our wing, savored the sounds of hundreds of airplanes and enjoyed the perpetual Florida breeze. There were the occasional wildfires, a storm or two and sometimes the temps would dip precariously low, but we survived and, come the next January, we were ready to start planning our next grand Lakeland adventure.
I thought retirement would be different. I envisioned lunch dates on sunny days at small cafes. I could see the Old Man and I snuggled together on the couch on rainy or cold days, reading or just talking while sipping hot tea or coffee. I imagined romantic interludes. Not.
If there were any interludes in the two months since he told his professional world goodbye, they have been working ones. I thought all this working business would be over and done. I was so very wrong.
John W. Murphy never did anything that made him famous. He wasn’t rich. As a kid he entered World War II with the assurance that it was the right thing to do for his country. He was unassuming and most times quiet, but in 1946 he left the military a changed man. He found a passion, and it was flying.