I’m sitting here in this big, comfortable, black, leather Pappa chair in my living room, wishing I were strapped into the left front seat of my plane, getting ready to go vroom-vroom. I call my plane, Ms. T, because the tail number ends with the letter and because she is a lady. Ms. T is in the shop right now, so I’m temporarily grounded. So I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you a little about airplanes, and pilotsand a Propchick.

Next time you’re sitting in an airliner waiting to take off, or in the terminal, here’s something to look for. When you see a small single engine plane with the wing on top, chances are that it’s a Cessna. If the wing is on the bottom, chances are it’s a Piper. If it has one wing on top, and another on the bottom, chances are that it’s either very old, or a very hot little aerobatic airplane called a Pitts.

When you see a guy with four stripes and a pilot hat pulling a little roll along case, he’s a Captain and he’s got his charts and probably a change of underwear in that case. The first officers have three stripes on their shoulders and some clean socks in their cases. They’ve got a lot of lives and a lot of very expensive airplane in their hands. So they tend to be very careful. And guess what almost all those guys do on the days they’re not flying those Boeings or Airbus monsters. That’s right. They’re usually down at some little airport flying their own little airplane.

There are some high profile guys like John Travolta, and Harrison Ford, and Tom Cruise who fly their own planes. But most pilots big plane pilots and little plane pilots, are like me just guys who like to fly. And most of us ARE guys. Something like 95% of American pilots are guys. But it is my personal experience that the five percent who are non guys are almost all excellent pilots. One of the best is a gorgeous blonde by the name of Patty Wagstaff. She’s an aerobatic champion with a great sense of humor. Lots of times she’ll fly an air show anonymously, and when she lands, everybody wants to cheer for the stud pilot and the canopy slides back, she stands uptakes off her helmet and shakes her long blond hair at the crowd. The cheers get very loud.

But somebody seems to have pulled the plug on pilots. In 1980, there were about 850,000 American pilots. Last year, we were down to a little more than a half million. And we’re losing airports too. But that’s a sad story and flying is a happy story about freedom, and satisfaction and sometimes about God.

When I take people to the little airport where I keep Ms. T, almost everyone is surprised that I don’t have to get permission from anyone to take off and fly anywhere I want to go. My airport is too small to need a control to were so we just get in, and my Lady Wonder Wench puts on her baseball hat that says Propchick on the front and she gets on the radio and warns everybody on the frequency that a couple of Louie-Louie Generation folks are rolling on the runway and we’re going wherever we want to go. That’s about as free as you can get.

Ms. T is a little Piper. Four seats, a 160 hp engine, and the landing gear stays down all the time. Top speed is about 130 knots on a good day. That’s around 140 mph. Lady Wonder Wench likes to drive faster than that in our driveway. We burn around 9 gallons of aviation gas an hour. If I were to sell Ms. T, she’d be worth around 50,000 dollars. But I’m not selling Ms. Tas long as I can pass my every other year physical, and my every other year flight test. And as long as my Lady Wonder Wench will keep on putting on her Propchick baseball cap and go flying with me. I have a buddy who calls his girlfriend Biker chick. That’s why Ms. Wench is Propchick.

There are several kind of pilot licenses. Student, Sport, Recreational, Private, Commercial and Airline Transport Pilot. My license says I’m a Private pilot ,single engine land, with an instrument rating. That means I’m allowed to fly a single engine plane in just about any crumby weather if I’m an idiot enough to do it. I used to be that kind of idiot till I flew into a thunderstorm that was hiding in the clouds one day. I got lucky. Most guys don’t. Even monster airliners avoid thumper bumpers.

As you probably figured, most of the guys with the three or four stripes you see strutting around major airports are Airline Transport Pilots. That’s the Ph.D of pilot licenses. They have to re-qualify both physicals and flight tests twice a year instead of every other year. With some very few unfortunate exceptions they are aces. They even know how to sound bored on the plane’s pa system. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it looks like we’ll be landing way ahead of schedule. The bad news is yes, that was the left wing that just fell off the plane.

I never wanted to be an airline pilot. I’m just one of those ordinary guys who simply loves to fly. Ms. T takes us to see family in other states. Sure beats driving, especially on holidays. We’ve flown over fireworks on the fourth of July, and looked down at rainbows, and in the cold and dark of many Decembers we’ve found the small lights of Christmas shining up from the windows of homes, and we’ve seen the New Year’s neon blaze from celebrating cities sometimes at night you can almost feel the clean, clear light of a full moon. I just love to fly.

Dick’s Details Quiz. All answers are in the current podcast.
1- What do Chimpanzees and certain high government officials have in common ?

2- What does the size of his thumb say about a man’s Viagral Part?

3- What nation has the lowest birth rate in the world. (Just think for a moment, and you’ll get this one.)
Dick’s Details. They take your mind off your mind.
There are some great movies you can rent about flying. There’s the Airport series with Dean Martin and crew, The High and the Mighty is right up there, Airforce One and Six Days, Seven Nights are a couple of Harrison Ford’s best very different and very good. I liked the Howard Hughes movie, especially the part where he’s flying at night with his girl friend I like doing that too. And the Pierce Brosnan Thomas Crown Affair has a gorgeous glider sequence in it. And every time the space shuttle comes back safely, I love watching some great stick work. That thing has almost no lift from those tiny wings, and they have no fuel left, so it has to be a dead stick landing every time.

I did a whole personal audio cd about two pilots and a lady. It’s called Love Comes When You Least Expect It. There’ s a chapter called, God’s Phone Is Off The Hook in the current podcast.
Yeahsome of you knowmy Lady Wonder Wench’s middle name is Annie. And as I guess you can figurethere is more than a little of our real life story told in this one. If you like “God’s Phone Is Off The Hook, you can just keep this podcast. Or if you want a fresh copyor you’d like to hear the whole story, just go back to the home page and download it from the “Love Comes When You Least Expect It icon.

There are such joys in flying. Sometimes on a calm and cloudless day even with the engine at full power your mind can get completely quiet. Sometimes something suddenly goes wrong, and a shot of fear goes tearing through your gutand it shocks the life back into you sometimes especially when you’re flying alone or with someone you love and the sun comes up in the first light of dawn you feel the warmth of..God and you never forget how terribly you tremble in his thunder. I don’t know any pilots who are completely sure that there is no God. There is just such power and beauty up there. I just really love to fly.

Comments would love to  hear from you. Dick@DickSummer.com

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