I was wiggling my toes deep under the covers, feeling the cool sheets after the hot summer day. Ahhh. There are pleasures you never tire of, and that end of day bliss in your safe harbor is one.
The phone rang, putting a shrill end to our bedtime’s peace and calm. It was past 10:30, we were cozied down, ready to drift off with books propped comfortably for reading. Hal had answered, and passed the phone to me with pithy mutterings… A tear-choked voice quavered in my ear. A pitiful wail cried “Aunt Michelee, I’m in Newark… my plane to the Vineyard just took off early without me!”
Our niece had found herself abandoned at the dead-quiet Newark NJ airport, its day’s activities mostly over and done – not the best place for an unescorted pretty young woman to be, late at night. Frightened and alone, left behind by an impatient pilot who decided to cut a corner and leave a few minutes early. (Shamefully, that used to happen; wily travelers always stuck close to the departure gate just in case) “Don’t worry, lamb chop,” I said – “Sit tight. We’ll fly down and get you. We’ll be there in a couple of hours.”
Groaning, we threw on clothes, grabbed up our son (last kid still at home), tooled down the road to our trusty little 4-seat Cessna at the local airport. It was charmingly rural, our sweet airstrip. We could park on the roadside, step through brambles, and quickly access our mamabird. Those were the days, pre-terrorists and major security fences. In no time we were airborne, marveling at the fantasy of lights passing below, against the inky background of earth.
Boston’s twinkling lights slid past on our left… soon the New York megalopolis edged into the horizon, Connecticut’s distant shoreline marking the Atlantic and thence Long Island Sound. We were with Air Traffic Control by now, receiving compass-heading instructions as we approached the city from the northeast. At this hour, nearly midnight, he was working a slack load. Most airlines and certainly little guys like us were already down and put away. So when he said, as we came down the Hudson River, “Turn right at the statue” he was bored and ready. “(Yumpah-dee-dah…) What statue ?” I asked. “The Statue of Liberty (his tone said ‘you dimwit’).” Hey – she wasn’t so prominent at night. But soon her raised torch beckoned the way, and we hummed towards the big lights of EWR. And now came the hard part.
The tower cleared us to land, and with the grumpy help of Ground Control (stressful New Jersey air traffic can exhaust their nerves) we idled along through the dark outdoors of the nearly vacant giant airport to the puddle jump airline serving MVY.
The story ends well. We gathered up our grateful niece, flew her back to our home via the stunning Hudson River departure procedure from NYC – with the low altitude safety restriction through there to keep us below the airlines’ JFK, LGA, and EWR’s approaches and departures, we got quick peeks into apartments as we wended our way out and away (always over the river, never over city buildings). Final instructions from EWR tower had been: “Turn left at the Statue and contact Departure.” Again the illuminated roadmaps of civilization spread out before us as we climbed onto our course, lights gradually thinning out into the black forests of rural sleeping CT. Soon we were clicking on the pilot-controlled runway lights at home base – and rolling out. Next day we arose late and whisked our lamb chop to the Vineyard. It was all good.
Of course she had to bear intense family teasing for missing her flight. Her mother was having fits about the imposition on us. They don’t get it, do they, the goggle-eyed ground-huggers? When adventure calls, we leap! Flying the New York Corridor into Newark at midnight and beyond?