Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Trusting Souls

The heaviest load in aviation is flying someone else’s airplane

We're about to do some hangar flying under the guise of talking about some of the most trusting people I've ever met in my life. These are people who let me fly their airplane and, in so doing, gave me hangar tales I repeat as often as I can.

Early in my flying career, when I was just out of college, I met my first hard-core trusting soul. At the time, I had barely started in my first (and last) real job and was instructing aerobatics in Citabrias on the weekends. I was a newbie to life, newbie to aerobatics, newbie to magazines and just barely out of newbie status to aviation in general. Our first meeting went something like this:

I had driven onto the Homestead, Fla., airport in search of a T-6 I had seen advertised (I had delusions of warbird grandeur). I parked in front of a hangar marked "Fly For Fun…Aerobatics," and asked the first person I saw, "Do you know of a T-6 for sale on the field?"

His answer was, "No, but I have this Jungmeister for sale."

I had been eyeing the cute little biplane as I walked up and couldn't keep myself from asking, "This is great! Can I sit in it?"

"Sure," he said and introduced himself as Bill Thomas.

I let down the little side door and weeviled my way down into the made-just-for-me-sized cockpit. I sat there for several minutes, clearly drooling down my shirt, while we talked about the instructing I had been doing, when he said, "Wanna fly it?"

My brain heard the words but initially couldn't comprehend the meaning. Then it caught up. "Really? I can fly it?"


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