In my first year at University, I met the most beautiful girl I could dream of, both in personality and character. She was also elegant, refined and pretty, with a hardworking and determined nature. She was at University studying nursing. I had known Emmeline for many years through family connections, but it was at the study tables at University that we became better acquainted, and I learned of her desires of working in disaster relief and the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia where we both lived. This was an immediate talking point given my goal to work for the RFDS as a pilot.
A few months later, I asked her family and mine, and we began going out. The following months were the most enjoyable of my life. Emmeline constantly encourages me with my dreams in aviation and is always a ready help with my nursing studies. She couldn't be more supportive.
For a number of years, I had thought that if there ever was a beautiful way to propose to a girl, that the air would have to be the most perfect place to do it. Having completed my GFPT in mid-September and asked for the approval of both my family and Emmeline's, nothing stood in the way of the next step except a perfect day.
The week prior to the proposed day, I checked the weather constantly and briefed a team of close friends on their roles for the day. I would have them record the event from the inside and outside of the sterling Cessna 172M I had hired.
The day dawned clear and blue on October 2, 2011. It was the day of my dreams, and I was stressed. Although I find stress normally doesn't impact me, today I wanted to be absolutely perfect, and I was very anxious that everything turn out just right.
After taking the keys and book to the aircraft, I invited Emmeline to join me on the tarmac as we walked towards the plane. She was nervous as this was the first time she had ever been flying in a plane this small. Again, I was anxious that this be an experience she would never forget, all for the right reasons. A quick check of the windsock confirmed that weather was reasonable and conducive to smooth flying with only a mild crosswind.
After doing the walkaround and routine inspections, I invited Emmeline to board the aircraft by saying, "Emma, come fly with me," a famous title from one of Michael Bublé's musical hits. She willingly mounted the right seat as I helped her buckle in and secured the door.
After doing the same for myself, I checked the interior camera was mounted correctly and a quick visual check to my left confirmed that my "covert" cameramen were moving into position with their equipment: radio scanner, cameras and video recorders. Calling, "Clear prop," and starting the plane confirmed to me that one of the greatest and most anticipated events of my life had begun.
Taxiing out to the runway, I did my run-up checks, lined up on the runway and took off. The Latrobe Valley is one of the most beautiful parts of Victoria, and this day was no exception. The lovely green pastures dotted with houses and cows gradually became smaller as we climbed to 3,000 feet.
Emmeline seemed tense at first but gradually began to become more relaxed, much to my relief. Over the next half hour, I gave her a scenic view of the area, finally suggesting that we return to the airfield and perform a few touch-and-goes. She was happy enough though a little nervous, since she had never seen me land before.
Joining the circuit again and confirming the wind was now straight down the runway, I slowed the aircraft and configured it for the landing. Turning onto final, the view was beautiful and I wanted to pull off a perfect landing, to build my confidence if not hers!
Selecting 30 degrees of flaps, the aircraft was configured for landing. As the ground came closer however, Emma seemed more nervous. Passing over the perimeter fence at 65 knots, I gradually reduced power and raised the nose. The stall warning sounded just as the wheels skimmed across the dirt runway. It was a perfect landing.
As I powered away and raised flaps in increments, I noticed that Emma seemed visibly impressed and her anxiety seemed a great deal less. Another lovely landing, thanks to the weather, and I knew I should make the next one a full stop. I didn't think Emmeline suspected anything yet, so fingers crossed!
On the last circuit, I performed a longer than usual downwind leg to allow plenty of time. As I turned onto base, I asked Emmeline to open the manual compartment and retrieve a white envelope. As she pulled out the envelope she read the writing on the front, "Emmeline, will you…"
As she stared in silent disbelief, I made my radio call and turned onto final approach and proposed to the girl of my dreams in the most romantic environment I could imagine, suspended between heaven and earth. Enclosed in the envelope was an engagement ring with the rest of the sentence handwritten on paper, "...marry me?"
I'll always remember her response as she looked at me and said, "Reuben, I'd love to."
The relief that came over me was heightened only by the smoothness of the landing as the aircraft settled onto the runway in an iconic representation of the smooth completion of a long anticipated plan, but yet the start of a journey through life, likewise challenging but equally successful.
I'll never forget the experience of my life. It goes down as one of my greatest achievements. Something I've worked toward for a long time, and it turned out beautifully. The future holds many challenges, but my determination to fly in medical aviation has never changed, and together with Emmeline, we'll achieve this goal, through thick or thin.
Update: We've been happily married over a year, and I'm continuing working toward my passion of flying commercially.