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Outdoor Life: My first airplane flight

My first aerial experience did not come via a Delta 747 or the Concorde but rather with Reverend Jim in 1971.  You have most recently learned of my friend / pastor in the episode concerning a certain Gila monster.  As I previously informed you he had not, by 1971, gained entrance to seminary but he had gained a pilot’s license, or so he said.  Actually I think it was more like a learner’s license that he bought at a bargain price from a local instructor of dubious integrity.  Regardless, he invited me to head into the wild blue yonder with him one Saturday afternoon and I stupidly agreed.
    We drove over to Covington where the plane was kept and during that process set several overland speed records.  That should have given me a clue as to what might be on part two of our day’s agenda.   My expectation was that we would fly in a nice comfortable plane with a stewardess on it serving cokes and snacks.  That’s what I had seen a couple of times on TV and it represented the full extent of my knowledge about airplanes.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.
    Upon our arrival at the field I first noticed that the runway was short and skinny, unlike those I had seen on commercials.  There were two model airplanes sitting outside (they couldn’t be real ones because they were too small) and the airport office was roughly the size of my bedroom.  By now I was getting somewhat panicky because this didn’t seem to be a first rate outfit but rather one that paid shoddy attention to detail.  It was not my desire to risk life and limb at the hands of these people and their model airplanes.
    The proceedings however continued along and as far as I was concerned the situation was spiraling out of control which was an unfortunate thought considering what was to soon transpire.
    In no time Reverend Jim had me climbing into the cockpit of a miniature plane and  strapping me in.  I had noticed that the name of the plane was written on one side and was call the “Yee Haw” which gave me no great degree of comfort.  I asked the Rev at that point, “What’s this big bag over here for?”  He replied that I should keep it handy in case it became useful in the near future.  He then proceeded to crank the machine and to my consternation it wouldn’t fire up.  Great.
 An untrustworthy, miniature craft named “Yee Haw” and I’m strapped in readying to fly with a pilot of doubtful skills and licensing.
    Finally the engine mustered enough energy to crank and we taxied down that scrawny little runway.  The takeoff took my breath away and I immediately grasped the significance of the bag quickly checking to make sure it was nearby.  The ground fell away at a speed that made me dizzy and I closed my eyes in an attempt to control the nausea that swept through my stomach.
    In about two minutes flat we had traveled thirty miles and were over our farm in Rutledge.  At that point the Reverend decided it was time for a close inspection of the property.  We went into a Top Gun, acrobatic nose dive that sent my boiling guts to a place they had never before been and all of a sudden we were swooping over the farm at about one hundred feet scattering cows, goats, chickens as well as my dad, and sent them all running for cover.  If we had been equipped with machine guns we’d have cleaned out the barnyard in one pass.
    It was at this juncture that I realized I was not in control of my own destiny.  I looked over at the good reverend and he had a maniacal glint in his eye as he hollered out “Yee Haw”.  I too hollered out some exclamations that are not print worthy and then began an earnest prayer the specific contents of which I cannot recall but that in general asked for divine intervention to get me back safely on the ground in exchange for a renewed vigor in our church meetings.
    Eventually we made it back to safe harbor with my feet aching to hit terra firma as soon as the wheels would stop rolling.  My prayers answered, I thankfully un-strapped the seatbelt, stumbled out the door and fell on the ground already thinking about fulfilling my promise concerning our local tabernacle.   Thus ended my first airline flight and it was many years before I could be persuaded to board another one.  Reverend Jim, his duties as stunt pilot finished for the day, smiled and reminded me, “Don’t forget to throw that barf bag out”.

    Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at dar8589@bellsouth.net.

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