Chad Manning flies 737s for Alaska Airlines and C-17s for the 446th Reserve Wing at McChord Field in Washington state.
He hadn’t flown in a J-3 Cub. Ever.
“When was the last time you flew in a small plane?” I asked Chad as we drove to the airport. “16 years ago in a 172,” he responded. “I have about 50 hours.”
Chad’s son and my son are classmates. That’s how we met. Over the years we’ve known each other – our boys are entering 5th (gulp) grade – and we’ve socialized many times. But this is the first time we’ve gone flying together.
On the drive to the airport, Chad was telling me about the hypoxia training he’d just come from at McChord Field. It was a good refresher. I grinned and said he wouldn’t be needing to put that knowledge to use on our flight. “Pattern altitude is 1,500 MSL. That’s about as high as we’ll get.”
Chad flew most of the time, once we were airborne. He’d flown over this area a lot. But it was pattern work in the C-17, or arriving and departing the area in both the 737 and C-17. He hadn’t just sauntered about. And he was having a blast.
As we sauntered — because that’s about all you can really do in a J-3 — around the Puget Sound area of western Washington it hit me. We need to reach out to our military and airline pilot siblings.
As much fun as Chad and I had, I don’t expect him to rush out and get checked out in a general aviation aircraft anytime soon. But fanning the flame of GA could be a very useful in the long run.
To be certain, a good many military and airline and corporate pilots do fly low and slow on the weekends. But I’d hazard a guess that many more don’t.
Those are the pilots we need to reach out to. In most cases, they started in general aviation. We need to remind them what flying — just flying — is all about.
What about Airline Eagles? Or Military Eagles?
During a post-flight “debrief” at a local water hole, Chad was still pretty excited. To be fair, the airlines and military operate under a massive load of rules and regulations. And while a great job, it is a job. Casting aside most of those and just flying was a kick in the pants for Chad.
Chad’s smile says it all. Let’s take our big plane siblings flying.