Luc’s Ride

Jerry Pond with Luc

Taxiing to take off from Jerry Pond on a cold autumn evening (Photo by Tony Cesare)

The temperature is not extremely cold this first day of November, at least not like it will be in the coming months, but after our bodies acclimated to the nice Maine summers thirty-eight degrees Fahrenheit seems quite cool and with the sun setting it’s not going to get any warmer.

Float plane operations are pretty much done or winding down by this time of year but I have been trying to accomplish as much flying as possible all season and I’m just now catching up on all my prior commitments.  With this setting sun I’m running out of daylight, and as mentioned earlier, it’s pretty cold this evening but I promised the young fella sitting behind me that he’d get a ride in my floatplane–and today he will, although it will be a relatively quick flight.

Although young for formal lessons, my passenger Luc was not too young to learn to fly and did an excellent job as student/passenger previously in my Super Cub when it was on wheels, and I wanted him to experience water flying–the pinnacle of flying in my opinion.  There is something special about the combination of water and flight that just cannot be described, it has to be experienced.  It brings out a sense of adventure and freedom that is even more powerful than other types of flight which already highlight these feelings to a great extent–water flying just magnifies it significantly.

This evening, as the plane floats slowly away from the shore atop the mirror-like surface, I can look back and see his parents standing on the shoreline with two of their younger children watching us expectantly, and probably a bit nervously wondering why we aren’t done and safely home yet!  I can’t blame them really, it would take some serious thought on my part to let my young son or daughter fly with anyone other than myself.  I say ‘myself’ not because I’m anything special…I just know how I fly and for me to let them go with a pilot of unknown talent probably would not happen.  In this case I’m not an unknown, Luc’s parents are my cousins and they know I’ve been flying for over thirty years and will do everything I possibly can to make this a safe and enjoyable flight.  Nonetheless, any apprehension felt by any parents at this point would be well deserved.

My airplane is capable of taking off in extremely short distances and I would normally taxi to the other end of the pond but not all the way down to the other end as I’m doing now.  However, due to my precious cargo sitting two feet behind me I play it safe and use every foot available in this small pond on the edge of town and given the slow speed at which we are taxiing it takes a bit of time.  Luc and I are not really concerned with how long it takes other than I have to be back home before the approaching darkness, but I’m confident that as slowly as the time passes the shoreline anxiety is growing.

I feel at home in this cockpit, like I’ve been wearing it for decades.  I grew up in this very same airplane as a child and can’t help think of the irony of looking back over my shoulder and seeing this young, eager face peering out the window with anticipation just as I was doing over nearly forty years ago.  Same plane, same area, same circumstances–just a new young soul intertwined in the history of my green Super Cub.  The ability to do this gives me such a warm feeling inside and I have to remind myself that I’m not doing this totally for altruistic reasons.  Truth be known, I get more out of this than anyone can possibly know…it’s humbling really.

 

*Luc enjoyed his sunset ride and we both agreed his orientation flights in the Cub will not be complete until he fly’s with me on skis–so you haven’t heard the last of Luc!

Childhood Dreams

Ready for Start
Seconds Before Firing the Green Cub Up.

Summer 1982, Fourth Debsconeag Lake—Indian Camp.

I had just turned twelve years old and was staying at some sporting camps in the woods of northern Maine with my Grandfather and a close friend of his named Randy.  The owner of the camps had asked Randy to watch over them for awhile so he could take care of some personal business, business that would take two to three weeks.  Randy had asked my Grandfather if he’d like to spend a couple of weeks in the camps with him and that he should bring me along—this was the custom, I’d been tagging along with these two in this same airplane since my earliest childhood memories.  Well needless to say we had an enjoyable stay in those camps that summer.  Having spent time in a camp President Theodore Roosevelt had stayed in and another fascinating cabin called the Indian Camp, it was more than I ever could have asked for and it was truly a great experience for my young soul.  I could write a good, long chapter in a book based on my twelve year old memories that summer of ’82, but one stands out and has never been told—until now.

I had left the camp one rainy day to go wander in the woods around the area leaving Randy and Gramp in the cabin.  This day however, I didn’t go very far like I typically did, this day I headed across the property and the passed the other camps to where the plane lay tied up to the dock.  To me Randy’s airplane was mystical.  Sure I knew it was a Piper Super Cub, but at twelve years of age I really didn’t know much.  I stood and looked at it for quite some time floating gently on the surface of the rain-splattered lake.   I’m sure it was quite a few minutes before I worked up the courage to climb up into the pilot’s seat.  I vividly remember sitting there looking out over the instrument panel and dreaming this plane was mine…that one day I would have a plane just like this of my own.  I remember the feel of the cold metal of the control stick; I remember the sweet smell of the mixing of metal, wood, fabric, oil and fuel.  These are the same smells I still associate with old airplanes.  I needed to cut this journey of mine short though.  You see, I didn’t ask for permission to climb into that plane.  Although I’m sure Randy wouldn’t have minded, I still knew enough to know I was supposed to ask and what I was doing was wrong.  So with this in mind, I was sitting there no more than five minutes, probably much less, when I hurriedly jumped back down onto the dock…looked back at the green Super Cub and walked away.  I had a feeling in that seat.  A feeling I couldn’t put words to if I wanted to, but it left an impression on me that has NEVER left.

I fondly think of this memory from time to time but mostly when I’m on some pond in the woods, right as I settle down into the seat and peer over that very same panel, and out that very same windscreen.  I knew I would have a Super Cub one day…I just never dreamed it would be the exact one from my childhood.  Now when I push that starter button I can hear my Grandfather and Randy’s voices in that cockpit as clearly as I did those thirty-five years ago.  I’m sure they are looking down on me and smiling.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they even knew back in 1982 that I’d climbed into that seat.  One thing is for sure though, I know that I owe them both so much…and I’m still trying to repay them.