Memories Take Flight

AOPA PPS members reflect in celebration of Father's Day.

My last flight with my father took place on what would have been his 87th birthday on June 7, 2009. To honor his wishes, I arranged a flight in his favorite aircraft, an open cockpit Stearman biplane, over the airport where he had kept his own plane. With help from one of his flying friends, I scattered his ashes among the puffy white clouds in the sky where he had always felt most at home, all his life.
Read more of Peggy Loeffler's memories

My Dad and I have spent what seems like countless hours across from each other in the front seat of an airplane. Whether flying practice instrument approaches, seeking out the one hundred dollar hamburger, or flying on a long cross country to Baja California or the Rockies, his professionalism both behind the yoke and in the example of his life has set the tone for mine.
Read more of Mike Turney's memories

Flying with my dad is a distant memory that still makes my eyes water. The dormant memories came back to life when "the itch" made me get my private pilot license in my mid-40s. I own a Cessna 150 Aerobat and have bought into a small remote airport property near Lake Chelan, Washington. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to fly a 1946 Ercoupe just like my dad's. When those tires touched down with that little soft chirping sound, the same sound from my childhood, I remembered everything, and the tears flowed. My dad and his Ercoupe are two of the sweetest things in this life.
Read more of Susan Johnson's memories

My father, James T. “Jim” Benham is a pilot’s pilot. I grew up in the right seat with him flying his Piper Aztec all over the Northern Hemisphere. Countless trips across America, soft field landings at his family farm in Mississippi, flying across Texas to New Mexico (one day he wanted to go to Carlsbad Caverns, so we grabbed one of my friends and just did it!) and multiple trips a year that we would take to bring doctors and nurses to Central Mexico for free medical work.
Read more of James Benham's memories

I remember as a small child going flying with my dad. The smells and sounds of the airport as we drove up gave me a sense of freedom. The small community of Mattituck seemed to be personified in the friendliness of everyone at the airport. My dad was free when we were there, unburdened by the daily tasks of life. I always felt welcomed and loved there. When we would board the airplane my excitement would only be rivaled by my dad's. Then the take off and the feeling of freedom. Looking down at the earth and our town, my cares where gone. He would joyfully let me fly. We would fly by our home and "wave", watching as our home seemed so small. Everything was beautiful when we were flying. My dad and his love of airplane gave me a gift of freedom; for that I am eternally grateful.
Read more of Janet Jackowski's memories

One particular flying memory I have is on the Fourth of July we left for an afternoon of local flying before the evening cookout. About 30 minutes into the flight dad decided to do some spins. As the aircraft stalled and fell into the spin the small baggage door behind us opened and everything inside went out the door opening. This included a roll of paper towels. I can still see that roll of paper towels unrolling as it fell to the ground during our spin. I often wonder if those paper towels fell near someone what they thought about the “paper towels from heaven."
Read more of Davis Morgan's memories

My story is rather different, as I haven't been "flying with dad" yet. My father and I purchased a neglected 1946 Aeronca Chief 11AC that we're determined to get airworthy and flying again. My dad and the Aeronca Chief made the 2,356 mile round-trip journey in one piece, we got it unloaded on June 14, 2015- now the fun part of restoration can begin. With Father’s Day coming up on the 21st and I can't think of a better way to spend it.
Read more of Keith Kie's memories

When I was twelve I had the opportunity to fly in a small bush-airplane in Venezuela. When I returned to the US, I was confident that I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. My dad, who has always been supportive of our dreams, made an agreement with me. If I earned the money for my private license by the time I turned 16, he would not only let me learn to fly, he would also take lessons with me. After mowing many lawns and finding random money making jobs, I went to my dad on my 16th birthday and asked him when we started lessons. That began one of the best years of my life. As the fourth daughter in a family with six kids, time with dad was limited. Once we started lessons though, I knew that every Tuesday morning was my time with dad.
Read more of Rachel Waite's memories

My dad is a retired USAF pilot who had been on hiatus from flying since his retirement in 1970. I have many flying memories. One involves our trip to Florida and back while we were both serving in the USAF. My dad was the aircraft commander. I was a 30 hour student pilot. I was allowed to sit in the left seat for the entire flight, making one landing. The aircraft was a T-29, call sign Ram 20. It was the only time my dad and I flew together in a military bird while we were both on active duty. In April 2015, he set the Guinness World record as the Oldest Active Pilot (Current) at 95 years, 4 months and 23 days.
Read more of Pete Weber's memories

One of my most memorable flying memories was the "Thanksgiving Flight." There was nothing really remarkable about that flight, but I remember it for several reasons. It was the first time that I took my father flying, rather than flying with him. It was my first real cross-country, and my first exposure to extended, severely turbulent conditions. It also marked the first time that I was really cold in an airplane, and it left me exhausted.
Read more of Byron Covey's memories

Ever since I was little, I wanted to fly. My dad took me to my first airshow at Selfridge ANGB when I was young, and I remember the two of us walking through the grounds, seeing all the planes up close. When show time came, we made our way to the grass area, and took our seats (which were not very close to the flight line). Seeing that I was little, and very short, I wasn’t able to see the airplanes flying very well. My dad saw how upset I was, so he put me on his shoulders, and walked up to ‘air show center’ so I could have a better view of the airplanes. He even gave me his camera so I could take photos to have as my own, personal souvenirs! (He later bought me my own camera as a present because I was always stealing his at the shows).
Read more of Liz Lekarczyk's memories

I have fond memories of flying with dad, out of the Bayport Aerodrome on Long Island NY, when he would put me in the back seat of his J-2 40hp Cub so he could fly from the front seat in the late 1940's. A few years later he introduced me to sailplanes out of that same airport.
Read more of Bob Ibanez's memories

I remember the first time my dad asked if I wanted to take the yoke and fly the plane. I DIDN’T HESITATE even though I had a big lump in my throat and butterflies in my stomach. It was amazing rush of adrenaline and pride. It also awakened new sense of speed, distance, 3 dimensional space, and geography. That was when I was about 6 if I can remember correctly, somewhere around the release of Star Wars – imagine the endorphins for a kid almost inside the X-wing fighter! I still feel it when I get in my airplane today.
Read more of Tom Kvanvig's memories

I want to share a trip my Dad took me on when I was 8 years old to Mexico to go fishing (back in 1973). My dad and I departed from Tyler, Texas on July 7, 1973 en-route to Oshkosh for the airshow. While there, we met Pappy Boyington and had a great time camping out for the show! We then left Oshkosh on the 29th and flew another 12 hours, stopping back in Tyler to pick up gear, to arrive in Brownsville on the 31st.
Read more of Jay McBurney's memories

My dad provided memories for me that will last a life time. Our time flying together was fantastic. We flew out to the Reno air races five different times and numerous business trips, yet nothing has ever compared to the night flight we had from El Paso, Texas. Tears fill my eyes now as I relieve this story and it reminds me of how much I still miss my dad.
Read more of Terry Barbee's memories

One day my dad picked me up from school and said, “How would you like to go flying?” My unhesitating answer was, “I’d love to!” He drove me to Orlando Executive Airport to meet my pilot for a discovery flight. The year was 1985 and I was just 16. Back then there was no TFR around Disney World and the common discovery flight was to do a few circuits around Cinderella’s Castle, then back to the airport. Along the way the instructor let me take the yolk of that little Cessna 152 and do some climbs and turns and descents to see what it all felt like to be in command of an actual aircraft. I still smile today when I think of the feeling of absolute freedom – the freedom to move in three dimensions.
Read more of Greg Scott's memories

One flying memory I have is leaving Frederick and heading for First Flight Airport in North Carolina. It was a beautiful, scenic trip, but the part I will never forget is when we were rolling out after arriving at KFFA and a deer walked onto the runway. Dad just calmly asked me, “Do you have a horn on this thing?” I am so glad to be able to share the joy of flight with my dad and hope we will be able to do so for many more years.
Read more of Ken Morrow's memories

My Dad (Don Frankel) was an active pilot when I was born. He was part owner of a BT-13 and a Stinson. He said he couldn't afford the P-51 (it was $10,000). I remember him telling me that he had been chosen for a program to see how fast a person could solo. This was in the early to mid-1940s. I believe the Army Air Corps was involved. I was surprised when I read his logbook that it wasn't accomplished in less than 5 hours, but it was still pretty quick.
Read more of Nancy Pierce's memories

I wish I had a great “Flying with Dad” story, like going to Oshkosh or swooping over Kitty Hawk at his beloved Outer Banks, but it didn’t happen that way. But he was with me on every flight I ever took, combat or civil. That morning mission over his farm in the 172 was his last jump, and my first, and last, flight with Dad.
Read more of Colonel Al Allenback's, USAF (Retired) memories

In January 2009, I finally got the bug to get my pilots license, I received my private the same year. I asked my dad for help purchasing an airplane. We looked at several beginner type aircraft (warrior, archer, gruman tiger, etc.) but the demand for these planes kept the prices very high. My father also felt I should consider a Bonanza, but I was concerned it was to much plane for me. After more discussion with my instructor the decision was made to look for a Bonanza. My father helped through the purchase.
Read more of Stevan Hackett's memories

Even though my father was a B-24 pilot, he didn't continue to fly after the service, so I wasn't brought up around aviation, which is why I didn't get a pilot's license until age 60. Not long after that, I was visiting my parents and wanted to take them flying. My father was fine but my mother was nervous about it. She only went because it was me. She was doing OK until I offered to let my father fly. He promptly flipped it into a turn and I heard a sudden intake of breath in the headset. I told my father that he needed to ease into the turns because he had a nervous passenger in the back (third row, Cherokee 6). He was pushing 90 at the time and couldn't hear much so I don't know if he didn't understand me or just didn't take me seriously. He just smiled at me and soon flipped it into another turn.
Read more of John Worsley's memories

On December 7th, I soloed for the first time. I felt as though Dad was sitting right next to me with his hand also on the yoke. That just made that day even more special. Then, six days before the 1 year anniversary of my Dad’s passing, on May 21, 2015, I took my FAA Check Ride. I am proud to say, I am now a private pilot, just like my Dad was! And did I mention my Dad’s father was as well? That’s right, I am now a third generation pilot at the age of 45! I am already creating memories with my wife and 2 kids. I am planning a flight with my family to celebrate my Dad this Father’s Day.
Read more of Michael Sullivan's memories

Thank you to everyone who shared their incredible memories. We wish we could include each and every one of them. We would like to extend a very Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful fathers, father figures, and male mentors who have touched the lives of people out there: be it your own kids, others’ kids, your family, people you’ve mentored, people you’ve coached, and the world at large. We have created a variety of aviation-inspired Father's Day cards for you to share with them. You may download them here. Happy Father's Day from AOPA!

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