Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Light-Sport Chronicles: 50 Years To Solo

Rounding the circle of life with the immortal Piper Club

After interviewing Rick Solan, an owner of GBR and Berkshire Flying Services, for a recent column, I spied a J3 across the field, framed poignantly by its ’30s-style Quonset hangar. Something old but still hungry stirred within me. I felt a surge of excitement, like a kid rushing home to build a new model.

I asked Rick who owned it.

“I do,” he said. I smiled. “I teach in it,” he added. My smile grew.

“You can rent it, too.” My eyes widened, then he set the hook with: “I’ll be teaching ski flying in the Cub this winter.”

I signed up on the spot to get my taildragger endorsement. No more being grounded by cold Northeast winters for me.

During our first lesson a week later, I discovered, gingerly holding the reins of Mr. Piper’s immortal creation, how incomplete my flight skills were. I’d love to say that this particular J3 turned out to wear the very same serial number as the airplane I flew in 1960. That would be a real Twilight Zone ending. Truer to the heart of this story is that the mystique of that very first Cub never left me. Coming full circle back to solo in the first airplane I ever flew, I’m reliving, during every flight, that 15-year-old’s thrill and fear and wonder at the wide world.

Pilots are fond of saying that you’re always learning to fly. True enough. Learning in the Cub can take you deeper—to a fuller sense of who you were, and are, and who you might yet become in the world.


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