Sunday, 18 January, 2004

Flying cross country in a private plane

In the summer of 1993, I took a trip from Scottsdale to North Dakota and Chicago with Debra, my step-mother, and my brother.  All told, we were gone eight days, four of them spent flying a total of 20 hours in the cabin of a Cessna 210 Turbo.  This was the year of The Big Flood in the Midwest, and we got an excellent view of the flooding in southern Minnesota and much of Iowa.  In fact, we came to speak of Iowa as "Lake Iowa," because so much of it was under water.

One of the highlights of flying cross-country in a private aircraft is stopping at little county or city airports for bathroom, fuel, and food (usually in that order).  The people at these airports are very happy to see an aircraft come in requiring 80 gallons of fuel, and they're more than willing to let the pilot borrow the airport car to go into town for some food.  There's little risk that the pilot will leave a high performance aircraft and run off in a beat up 1964 Chevy Impala.  The airport managers are also very happy to sit down and talk about flying, the weather, local goings-on, and just about anything else with a pilot who flies in.  They'll also help out with directions, finding a place to stay, minor repairs, and anything else they can.

Small airports are like a blast from the past, taking you back to the "kinder, gentler" world of the 1950's that you see on TV.  You don't see a lot of this easy-going and relaxed helpfulness in daily life.  It's usually a cliquish attitude among individuals who share a common hobby or interest:  pilots, serious RVers, touring cyclists, campers at out-of-the-way places, ham radio enthusiasts, etc.  What I find most interesting is that the people who generally exhibit this behavior are not overly social beings, but rather individualists and sometimes downright anti-social to most people.  This quiet conservative kindness and helpfulness is the epitome of "neighborliness," something that city-bred liberals neither understand nor appreciate.