He became my all-knowing god, my flight instructor. He was a scrawny-legged, pot-bellied, baggy-eyed, beyond middle-aged smoker.  But total trust is needed, you see, to teeter around the skies in a little trainer.  I had to believe he would not let me plummet and die, no matter how closely I dangled the plane on the edge of what I came to know as the “stall”—dreaded state of not flying, but falling nose first to death.  So I trusted… and eventually learned.

I had waited impatiently for two weeks for this intro flight. “Here, you take it,” he said, telling me to add power and climb aloft. Eagerly I grabbed the yoke and pulled… I pointed the nose up toward the sun, and pushed in the throttle as he had shown me.  “No NO NO!” he yelled—”It’s not a rocket!!”

He yelled a lot.  Good thing, because his cigarette voice droned at the exact same frequency as the engine, and I couldn’t tell what he was saying unless he was high-volume shouting. He made me nervous. Until one day, after many sessions, I peeked sideways at him—he wasn’t yelling.  He was slumped asleep. I smiled to myself. He trusted me enough to sleep! I knew then that I had learned the game. It was a rush. Soon after came the solo, the solo cross country—and the flight test. And then the fun began . . .

But before, there was the exhilarating initiation. With the occasional “oops.”

I’ll tell you about those, if you like.