Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Solitary Goose

Not everyone wants to fly solo

grassrootsThe morning sun had yet to break over the horizon, and as I speed-walked my usual early morning, let’s-get-the-blood-flowing-and-the-joints-loose route, I could actually see my breath. Light frost crusted the yards—a rare but not unknown happening here in the desert. Then I heard a single honk overhead and glanced up: Instantly, I felt just a little melancholy.
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The same thing is true of the little Cassutt racer, a speedy aerobat that barely sips fuel, surely the biggest bang for the buck in the world of sport aviation. I easily could nestle three or four of them around my own airplane and not even crowd my hangar. I could roll it out in the early morning and be in Los Angeles visiting my daughter in a couple of high-speed hours, having burned maybe 10 gallons of fuel.

And it would seem only natural to also have a single-place Pitts—probably an extremely light S-1S—stuck in a corner of my hangar next to my two-place teaching bird. Plus, I’ve always wanted to build a modern replica of the original Lil’ Stinker Pitts; pictures and models of it set my heart on fire while I was in junior high, setting the course for the rest of my life.

I would dearly love to have any of the foregoing little birds, but some part of me, the part that gets its nourishment from my connection with the AZ Redhead, wouldn’t be happy doing that. The truth is that as much as I like flying alone, the aforementioned part of my psyche doesn’t truly enjoy it. I miss sharing the experience, and I don’t want to come down and try to explain to Marlene what I did or where I went. I want her to be there so we can discuss the experience and remember the moments. I want it to generate images that will live in both of our hearts and sustain us forever. That’s the character of a partnership.

It should be understood, however, that the sophomoric-sounding emotions just described aside, a partnership doesn’t mean the elimination of free will or the cannibalization of two souls. Both entities have to be complete within themselves so that they’re fully functional in their own right. If each person is going to contribute to the whole, then each must have his or her own identity. The strength of a partnership comes from the subtle overlapping of two strong personalities, and God knows, those exist in our household.
The urge to share is at least as strong as our individual urges for independence, so there will be no single-place airplanes in this household. This goose doesn’t want to fly alone.

Budd Davisson is an accomplished aviation writer and photographer, CFII & CFIA, aircraft owner and builder. He has authored two books and lectured at the Smithsonian and NASA’s Langley Research Center. Check out his website at

Labels: Pilot Talk


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