06 May 2009

Yellow Baby Bears

I have aviation in my blood.

I am a pilot.

My dad is a pilot.

My grandfather was a pilot.

In addition to having his pilot license, my dad has been an aviation mechanic for his entire career.

So in my home growing up, there was always talk about airplanes. We went to airshows all the time. I tagged along with dad to work on a few occasions, always fascinated with these flying machines.

One of the first books I remember reading was Chuck Yeager's autobiography. Yeager was a WWII fighter pilot, and went on to become a very accomplished and well-known test pilot. He is best known for being the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.

Another book that I read early on was Jungle Pilot, the story of Nate Saint, one of the first missionary pilots, who was killed with his fellow missionaries by a tribe that they were trying to reach with the Gospel.

My grandfather actually owned an airplane for a time. It was a Piper Cub. That airplane was one of the first airplanes that started the boom in general aviation, because it was cheap and easy to fly. Many were built for service in World War Two, and after the war were bought up and used for flight schools and many other uses. Many many pilots first got their wings in a Piper Cub.

Piper Cubs were traditionally painted a bright yellow, and my grandfather's was no exception. I imagine it was a beautiful sight, glowing in the bright sun. I imagine how fun it was to ride in the front seat, staring out at the world below. It wasn't a fast airplane, but that really wasn't the point. I didn't get to ride with Grandpa, he sold the plane long before my time.

But my dad has always had a soft spot for little yellow slow-poke airplanes. He had a Piper T-shirt that he would wear constantly, the same bright yellow color as the airplane itself, with a little teddy-bear-like logo on the front, proudly displaying the name Piper.

So he passed on his soft spot for little yellow slow-poke airplanes to me. Whenever I see one, I need to go look at it. It doesn't matter what other airplanes are around me, I go look at the little yellow one. When I see one, or when I get near to it, a voice deep within me says, "This is flying. Forget all that other stuff. This is where it's at."

Low and slow, seeing the world go by below you. So slow you can have the windows down. You could even take the doors off, like a Jeep, if you want. It wouldn't matter much. It sure couldn't slow you down any! Cars are zipping along on the highway, going faster than you are, but you're still seeing more than they ever could.

This is where it's at.

I figure that I'll pass along this love of little yellow slow-poke airplanes to my son. I've already taught him to look to the sky when we hear airplanes fly overhead, in the landing pattern for Riverview.

In a way, I think I already have, without much even trying.

Yesterday, my mother was over at our house watching Eli while we were at work. Shan called me, and said that she had to tell me something.

Mom had put a video in for Eli to watch during lunch, and at the very beginning, there was a scene with an airplane.

It was a Stearman, a big military training biplane that was used, like the Piper Cub, during WWII. After the war, it followed a similar path, with many being sold as surplus and used for a myriad of different purposes. Again, like the Cub, the Stearman carried many pilots aloft for their first flights.

So Eli is watching this airplane, and he starts making noise. Excited noise. I think it was an Aha! moment for him. He quickly got up, ran to his toy box, and began digging around. My mom thought he was going to fall in he was digging so deep.

When he finally emerged, he had in his hand a cheap toy that we had bought for him, I think before he was even born. It was an airplane, molded in red and yellow plastic.

He proudly carried the airplane back to where he was sitting, and proceeded to watch the video, holding on to his toy airplane. He kept looking up at the screen, and then back down at his toy. He flipped the toy upside down and looked at the yellow underside, and then back at the screen to look at the yellow airplane in the video.

I laughed when I heard the story, and thought, "Well, it's the beginning of the end. He's gonna fly now, he has no choice in the matter."

Later that afternoon, after I had come home from work, I put in a video for me to watch as I did chores around the house. Eli didn't pay much attention to it, he was busy doing his own chores, including pulling all the clean Tupperware out of the kitchen cabinets, trying to help me load the dishwasher, and reorganizing his toys across the living room floor.

The video I put in was One Six Right, a documentary on general aviation, through the history and legacy surrounding Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles. The airport is very busy, and supports a thriving community of pilots and aircraft owners, with a range of aircraft from the biggest and fastest, to the smallest and the slowest. All these different people and airplanes come together out of their love of aviation.

It's a wonderfully produced video, and if you don't want to fly after watching it, there's something seriously wrong with you.

Like most DVDs, it has a start menu, with different choices you can select. As these choices are displayed, a loop of various footage from the film plays in the background.

The video ended, and Shan was home now, and we ate dinner, with the music from the DVD filling the house. After dinner, Shan was on the computer while I was clearing the dishes, and Eli was watching the DVD menu screen, with it's looping footage.

Every once in a while, while playing and watching the DVD, Eli would start laughing and screaming and being very loud. It was only every few minutes, and then he would go back to whatever he was doing. Then back with the yelling and whooping. Then quiet again, with the music and the footage still playing.

After a few times through this, we noticed a pattern. Eli would only yell and scream and laugh at one particular part in this footage.

So we watched the footage playing on the menu, and sure enough, there were a few shots of a little yellow slow-poke airplane on the screen.

It was a Piper Cub.



Kathy said...

Jas, this brings tears to my eyes. I have fond memories of that Piper Cub. It was so cool that my Dad owned an airplane!! I can picture Dad giving the prop a big shove to get it started and then trying to squeeze his large frame into the pilot seat without hitting that little lever that would kill the engine if he wasn't careful. I remember the windows rattling, the fuel stick on the front of the plane and that quiet gliding ride. I also remember buzzing Aunt Edith's house and she would come outside and wave with her broom. I was extremely disappointed on my first commercial flight - that wasn't flying, it was like sitting in a bus! Thanks for sharing

Ted M. Gossard said...

Very nice. A little education. Striking looking planes, both. But that little cub looks endearing.

I wonder if you've ever flown one yourself. Maybe you said it, and I missed it. And your little Eli is picking it up from you just like you did from your father. Neat.

The Wingnut said...

No Ted, I've never had the privilege to fly in either of those aircraft. Someday, though!!


Ted M. Gossard said...

That would be nice.

Catie said...

i remember Dad's yellow Cub shirt. =) it brings back good memories!
it makes me smile every time the boys get excited about planes - Logs and Eli especially. they seem so fascinated at their young ages and are able to understand the awe and wonderment in planes and flying!
i love it!