Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Flying Siegfrieds
Let’s fire up the flivver, kids: it’s family flying time! And, yes, you will solo at 14.
|Every child remembers the alphabet blocks of kindergarten. But how many kids are raised with daily lessons in the art of flight? Bob Siegfried came of age in the 1940s. His childhood memories, like those of his generation, were lit by the lightning of World War II. Through it all, one dream burned the brightest: “I always, always wanted to fly.”|
There are parents who drive their children to be sports phenoms or world-class musicians. History is rife with praise—and complaint—from children forced to practice violin rather than play ball or with dolls after school.
Filial duty can produce a Mozart—or a lifelong malcontent. Probing the Siegfried variant of that eternal play of individual dreams against family expectations unravels a golden thread—love of family and of the miracle of flight.
“Oh, the kids really didn’t have a choice,” says Old Bob matter-of-factly as he revels in the accomplishments of granddaughter McKinley. “They flew. I don’t know if they would have turned out to be pilots otherwise, but I always said if I was a farmer, they’d have learned to milk cows. That was the only thing I could teach them—how to fly an airplane.”
As for youthful rebellion, there seems to have been, well, absolutely none. Once the oldest brother soloed, the other kids couldn’t wait for their own turn at the stick. Although Old Bob’s daughters, Kimberly and Cathy, didn’t keep up their flying, all three sons became accomplished pilots and remain active in aviation to this day.
“I think they all came to enjoy it,” says the elder Siegfried, who has logged 38,000 hours as a career United Airlines captain. “I made sure flying was always available to them. And they took advantage of it.”
As for his own life spent flying, “I’ve loved every bit of it. It’s the closest thing we get to being truly free. If I had another income, I’d have been happy to pay United to fly.”
At last fall’s annual Tullahoma Fly-In, the “Flying Siegfrieds” gathered to celebrate the Bonanza’s 60th anniversary [Read “Flying Into The Future: Behind The Bonanza’s Anniversary Makeover” from Plane & Pilot April 2008 at www.planeandpilotmag.com/aircraft.]
One balmy afternoon, an echelon of four aircraft dropped down to make a low pass over the field. In the lead was Old Bob, piloting his gorgeous yellow Stearman biplane, followed by sons Rick, Bob and Rand in an AT-6, Beech Bonanza and Beech 18, respectively. To keep speeds up for the faster ships, Old Bob held a smooth, gradual inside turn.
This year, the family weighs the virtues of a five-ship flyby—with Micky Siegfried in the lead.
“When we were building the airplane,” Micky remembers, “I was up at six in the morning instead of on spring break with my friends. Now, after flying with dad back to Texas in my airplane, there’s nothing I would rather have been doing. I got to fly 10 feet over the water! There were weddings on the Florida beaches. People were waving to us. I saw such beautiful things on that trip. I’ve been flying with the family for 16 years, but that flight home was my absolute favorite flying thing I’ve ever done. There will be many more spring breaks. But I got to build an airplane.”
In life, there are pleasures and duties, solo paths and group journeys.
With the Flying Siegfrieds, a Cub flies through it all.
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