Photo courtesy of AOPA member Philip E. Worley
I was already an adult when I learned to fly, and while my late Mom initially expressed concern for my safety, she had, through her personal strength, fortitude, passion and often fearlessness throughout her life, already conferred the essential skills to motivate me to become a pilot.
Indeed, when I was just eleven, she and my father allowed me, their only, adopted, child to go on a flight with the father of a childhood friend, who was a prominent attorney and private pilot in our community. It was an IMC flight to Syracuse, NY and back to pick up a college aged brother of my friend; honestly, I never forgot it. For me, that was the most exciting thing I had ever done, or would do, for many years. Indeed, I would not get into an airplane again until I was 23 and riding a commercial flight returning from professional school in Florida.
I never forgot that first experience, and even though I came from a working class family of modest means, I persisted in looking into flight lessons repeatedly, as I advanced through the stages of youth, college, professional school and young adulthood. At age 33, having completed school and employed in my first decently paying job, I was finally able to pursue my lifelong dream.
My mother, upon hearing that I had completed my private pilot certificate, demanded to be my first, non-instructor, non-flight student passenger, and so she was. I flew a rented aircraft to Linden, NJ (KLDJ) from Hartford, CT (KHFD), arranged to pick her up in a taxicab, and brought her back with me to Hartford in under an hour. She loved seeing her beloved NYC from that perch...this happened well before the restrictions of 9/11 or the VFR corridor...and we flew up the East River passing many landmarks she knew very well. On the return trip, we kept to the Hudson River side of Manhattan and she got to see that side of New York. I'd say she was pretty near speechless, though so obviously not afraid.
My dear mother is gone now, but I take comfort in knowing that she gave me two things in the final years of her life: the chance to fly over NYC with her, and because of my ability to visit her rapidly by air to check in on her, the ability to let her stay in the home she built with my father, and loved, until her final day.
Thank you Mom! Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven!