We fly. There are many reasons we fly. We fly for enjoyment, to learn new things, to travel, to have fun, to sight see, and more. But the most important thing about the flying really has nothing to do with flying at all. However, it does have everything to do with the relationships and the friends and the co-workers and other pilots we meet along the way. In short, it’s about the relationships we foster in our lives with friends who just also happen to work or play in the aviation field.
One can find camaraderie everywhere. Whenever like-minded enthusiasts gather, friendships will develop. Those friendships will run the gamut from being mere acquaintances to friendships that will last through lifetimes. This is true of any group – pilots, motorcyclists, sailors, shooters, skydivers, church members, scuba divers, you name the group, the members will always gather in order to meet and tell tales.
I miss the days of the “hangar parties.” Before the world became a dangerous place, during a time of innocence some time ago, we did not have barbed wire fences surrounding our airports and gates to keep out the curious. We could drive our cars and pickup trucks right to the hangar for the convenience of loading and unloading hotdogs, hamburgers, buns, sodas, chips, and more. During those times before September 11, we had parties at Hangars 9 and 10.
I remember one party in particular during which my hangar mate sent me on an errand for mesquite chips. I had a hard time finding the chips to fill his request. I went to just about every grocery store in town, but I finally found mesquite potato chips for him. When I finally returned to the hangars a significant amount of time later, I proudly handed over three or four bags of mesquite potato chips for the party – which was almost over. He and his wife looked at each other and busted out laughing.
“I meant mesquite wood chips for the fire,” he said slowly in his Southern drawl.
His drawl, like many from the South, is very pleasant to the ear. There are distinct accents throughout the United States, but we are slowly losing our unique ways of speaking as television is raising more of us each year. Since I am half-Cuban, I enjoy listening to the different accents of everyone who make up this great nation. I like listening to the way Southerners speak; I enjoy the Texas twang, the speech of Mid-Westerners, and the slang of the beach bodies from California. And then there are those from “Bahston.”
A group of us were flying formation back across the South when we stopped somewhere in Mississippi for lunch. We were at a fast food place ordering. I put my order in and was waiting. My friends from Boston were next to place their order. Then, and I swear this is true, the waitress looked at me and said, “What did they say?” The next thing I knew, I was serving as an interpreter between a soft-spoken waitress with a strong Southern accent and the people from Boston. Neither could understand a word the other was trying to say. Luckily, I had a good working knowledge of how to speak “Northeastern” even though I was brought up in the South. To this day, it remains one of my fondest memories.
Every now and then, we would gather for a fly-in consisting of antique-airplane-lovers from around the state. Once a month, we would fly to an airport, meet, have lunch, and fly home. Some of us stayed the night after going to dinner at a local BBQ joint. We would go to either a cheap hotel, or camp under the wing.
If you have not camped under the wing of your airplane, you are missing out on one of the great joys of flying. However, I must warn you. If your hangar mate snores, park your airplane at the other end of the row of airplanes. Or possibly, if needed, on the other side of the airport.
We parked our airplanes side by side at one fly-in and the hangar mate and his wife pitched tent under their right wingtip. I was sleeping under the left wingtip of my Cessna. The sounds of his snoring bellowed straight up from their tent, traversed the right wing of their Cessna, came around the center section and went to the left wingtip. Then it leapt from their airplane to mine and the sound followed my wings, and came off the left wing, went straight down and directly into my ear. Did not sleep a wink, that night.
But it was still a great time. A testament to how important friends are in aviation (or fill in the blank of any of your other favorite organizations) when it comes to the enjoyment of flying (life).
©2014 J. Clark
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