Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back into the air

Scattered cloud at 3,000 feet above northern Illinois, September 16, 2008

Yesterday I took old N5859E into the air. She's the Cessna 150 that carried me from New York to Los Angeles for my 1997 book Flight of the Gin Fizz. It was our first flight in five and a half months, a layoff necessitated by industrial-strength spinal surgery, and it was -- need I say it? -- a visit to heaven.

That airplane was built in 1959, which means she will be half a century old next year -- a certified antique, like me. But she is still stout and airworthy and so, it turned out, am I.

For an hour and a half we tiptoed across scattered early-morning cumulus and shot landings and takeoffs at Lake in the Hills and Westosha airports. What they say is true: once a pilot, always a pilot. My flying skills had not rusted during the long interval, as I had feared they might.

None of the landings were smooth "greasers," but they wouldn't have earned cackles from the veterans in the pilot lounge. There was a smart thunk as the wheels embraced the pavement, then a straight and true rollout through a mildly gusty crosswind.

It brought back sweet memories of flying over the Verrazano Narrows, then past the World Trade Center up the Hudson and over the George Washington Bridge before turning west into lower New York State for a six-week cross-continent adventure in 1995. We're a little old for that now, Gin Fizz and I, but we can still enjoy brief excursions into the blue.

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