Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodbye, Gin Fizz

My last view of N5859E in flight as Dana Holladay put her through her paces yesterday morning at Westosha Airport in Wilmot, Wis.

My half-century-old Cessna 150 two-seater, the one I flew coast to coast in 1995 for the book Flight of the Gin Fizz, is going to a new home in Massachusetts.

Her new owner is Bill Sanchez, an engineer at an energy company in New Hampshire who lives on a farm, grows hay and boards horses when he's not flying. He will be basing the airplane at Lawrence Municipal Airport in Lawrence, Mass., north of Boston.

I went up to my airport yesterday to prepare N5859E for her ferry flight east -- an old comrade, Dana Holladay, a veteran certified flight instructor, will fly her out today if the weather improves.

Saying goodbye was not easy.

Half the time during the 15 years I owned Gin Fizz, I thought of her as an assemblage of fragile and expensive aluminum parts flying in loose formation. (She is named in honor of Vin Fiz, the historic Wright Model EX that Cal Rodgers -- also a deaf pilot -- flew from Brooklyn to Long Beach, Calif., in 1911.)

The other half the time I considered her a living, breathing being full of affectionate idiosyncrasies, a good friend who took as much joy as I did cavorting in the air and going places low and slow. She is so light and responsive on the controls that sometimes it seemed that she had a soul.

But now it is time to cast off sentimentality and face reality, after a heart attack last August and consequent bypass surgery. My aviation days are not necessarily over -- I can still fly under the FAA's Light Sport Aircraft rules -- but owning an airplane is no longer practical.

Bill Sanchez and his son Bill Barker, who soloed on his 16th birthday last Sept. 24, will keep old N5859E warm, well fed and content.

That's good enough for me.

TUESDAY: Dana delivered N5859E to Bill at Lawrence Municipal last night at 7:30 p.m. after a 9.5 hour flight, with three pit stops. All is well.


  1. It's always sad to see an old and trusted friend leave but be comforted that it is going to a good home.

  2. I shed a tear too. She is a beauty who reflects the loving tender care you gave her. The Old Mariner tradition that ships had souls; the Gin Fiz has Grace. I am glad that I had that moment with her. “Bill” D

  3. Bill D. flew F4Fs, C-47s and B-25s for the Marines in World War II, then DC-3s over the Andes for Panagra after the war, winding up his career as a DC-8 captain for Braniff, flying from Miami to various points in South America.

    Some years ago he flew with me in Gin Fizz for an hour over southern Wisconsin. Having my favorite uncle for a passenger was one of the high points of my flying life.

  4. Nine and a half hours in a Cessna 150? Mr. Holladay must have great endurance.

  5. Is this a metaphor for Steve saying goodbye to Ginny or something?

  6. Hell, no! Not just yet, anyway. Don't worry, in the end they'll kiss and make up.

  7. Anonymous, at the airport we now refer to him as "Dana (Iron Ass) Holladay."

  8. The book will be in libraries and readers' memories long after the GF has stopped flying. I reread it for the NYC Hudson River segment last year after the US Air Hudson ditching and enjoyed it all over again.

    Barry Orton

  9. I am a friend of Bill Sanchez & son. I met Gin Fiz at LWM ... She is beautiful. They are lovin' it! She is definately in good hands.I just wanted to say, I too had a heart attack and a quad bypss! I got my private after that. I bought a 172 while taking lessons and still fly it today. I have a special issuance medical,good for one year. I had to jump through hoops, ekg & stress test, but I did it. I am now 62. I got my ticket at the age of 59. If you want it bad enough, it can be done! Never say Never! Hold onto the dream!

  10. I do know that special issuance medicals are available -- but since I already hold a medical with a waiver (for deafness) there is some question about whether insurance companies will accept the combination. Light sport would be a lot easier, since you don't need a medical, just self-certification that you are fit to fly.

    1. I have read your book twice and purchased several copies for new pilots.
      You and your book has more than inspired new!

      Clinton, CT