Flying With Dad: Steve's Memories

Steve's story as told to AOPA.

Photo courtesy of Steve Burney 

I've been a licensed pilot for 30 years, but active for only about 10 of those.  In that time, my Dad has flown with me 3 times.  The most memorable trips we had were the first, back in 1985, and the most recent this past November. 

The first trip we took together was shortly after I earned my license when I was 18 years old and living in Palm Springs, CA.  My Dad wanted to visit my grandfather in Yuma, Az, which was about a 3 hour drive, but only an hour or so by air.  My brother wanted to come along so we all piled into a rented 172 and went.  One of the main details I remember from that flight was my Dad's amazement that my primary navigational aid was the train tracks that I was following.  Flying VFR, those train tracks were especially important where they threaded between 2 restricted areas that were as close as

5 miles apart.  The fact that they went all the way from our origin at Bermuda Dunes to Yuma in a fairly straight line made it a cross country that would be hard to get lost on.  The other detail I remember was being cleared to land in Yuma, and then lining up on the wrong runway.  I was a little embarrassed to have to do a go around on that one and reenter the pattern for the correct runway, but it all worked out OK. 

Thirty years passed, and we finally got around to flying together again.  My brother, who now lives in Connecticut, has 2 kids in college: One in Virginia, and 1 in Charlotte, NC.  Since I live about an hour and a half from Charlotte, and he had to come get his kids anyway, we decided to have a family Thanksgiving at my house.  To make things easier for him, I offered to go to Charlotte to get his son.  Since my Dad was flying in from California the day before school got out, he offered to go with me.  Before long, we had decided to fly it.  I had just earned my instrument rating in April, and I had yet to fly into Class B airspace, so I thought it would be a good trip...and it was.  But, because of the last minute decision to fly, both of the clubs 182's were booked, which left us with a mighty Skyhawk.  The one we took is normally my favorite plane, but my Dad is not a small guy, not as flexible as he was 30 years ago, and with the seat rail AD it was kind of hard for him to get in (and a little funny, too).  Finally, we were in, I had my clearance, and we were off. 

It was a beautiful day, with some cumulus around.  For my clearance I was given the Shine 6 arrival into Charlotte, but before I even arrived at the intersection I started getting vectors.  We were both enjoying the day, the view, and the flight together.  My Dad would ask what a particular control did, and I'd show him by turning the wheel and causing the wings to wag, for instance.  He didn't like that too much, preferring the straight and level and a 'tell' rather than a 'show'.  Eventually, the vectors brought us directly over the top of CLT at 5000'.  Never having flown in there before, I didn't know what to expect other than that I would probably be landing on 36R since it was closest to the FBO.  We were vectored around a little longer, and eventually turned on to final with the instruction to keep my speed up.  Now we were going downhill, so my speed on final was actually faster than my speed in cruise.  We were hoping to punch through some of the clouds, but as luck would have it our vectors and descent clearances ended up threading us between the clouds and not through them.  At about a mile from the threshold, I pulled the power, slowed the plane, dropped full flaps, and made one of my all time nicest landings, smiling the whole time.  My Dad was thrilled by the ride and amused by the fact that waiting on us were 3 airliners on the taxiway on one side of the runway, 3 National Guard cargo planes on the taxiway on the other side of the runway, and an airliner on final behind us. 

Both flights were time well spent.  We were together, doing something new and exciting, and we were bringing our family together.  Because I live 45 minutes from the Asheville airport where the plane is based, the door-to-door time for the Charlotte trip was longer than if we had driven and the cost of the flight was definitely more than driving, but that wasn't the point of the flight.  This was an adventure that we were able to share and that we (as well as my nephew that we picked up that day) will always remember.  On both flights we were both doing something new, unfamiliar, and adventurous, even though the new and unfamiliar parts were different for both of us each time.

Thanks for the memories Dad!

AOPA Member Products staff
AOPA Member Benefits Staff members takes great care to ensure every product we provide is valuable, relevant, and in the best interests of our members.

Related Articles