When the time came to fly 93F one last time, I asked my friend John to come along. I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated our friendship, and his help with acquiring this plane of mine, this plane that was about to become someone else's. John's the guy who made aircraft ownership possible for me, and in a way, I felt as if I was letting him down by leaving New Jersey and leaving niner three fox behind as well. But life happens.
After a two month hiatus from flying it, I wedged into 93F and John folded himself into the right seat. The plane started right up, and I went through all the motions of preflight. Soon we were in the air, but crawling through a hot, hazy atmosphere, and joking about how close those trees are. 93F is not a rocket, but it gets the job done, if you work with it.
At altitude I stammered through a heartfelt attempt to thank John for all he's done for my flying, and told him that despite our seeing each other in person maybe six times a year, I felt that amongst my friends, he's one of my very best. Without using a lot of words, he said something about how the feeling was mutual. It was pretty much what I expected, as he plays his cards close to the vest.
What I never expected was the email I got this morning. Today I got an email wherein John became the real writer, the gushy one. John, the hardass, waxed poetic about flying, aircraft ownership, and friendship, and I read it several times. I got a little misty, and John will just call me a fag for saying that, and that's what is so much fun about being his friend. I want to share this with you. It pretty much nails our relationship, and is a great summary of what went down yesterday at the airport:
Today a good friend of mine did a horrible thing, he got rid of his airplane. It wasn't a mistake, he wouldn't be able to use it anymore in his "new life". It wasn't with difficulty, I helped set the exchange up so it was nearly a seamless transition to the new owner, who will enjoy it and have many decent memories from its ownership and will learn a lot from the experience. It also defined a milestone for him, a "moving on" of sorts. The plane did what it was supposed to do; it taught him finesse where other larger makes and models just couldn't, and it taught him respect, its lack of power and climb ability forced him to pay attention to things more carefully so he wouldn't paint himself into a corner and get in a situation that couldn't be gotten out of. It's sad that he couldn't have flown it longer, but his life decision to have a change of scenery has made this little plane obsolete for him now. But it's all not about a plane anyway, it's about friends.
I flew with both of these friends today, the plane and Rob, and we all enjoyed each other's company. One last flight in 93F for Rob was under a miserably hot, extremely hazy sky with no destination whatsoever, but it was a milestone in ownership for Rob and a moment of reflection for me. I will probably not see Rob too much anymore, in reality I never really saw him much in the first place, but we always enjoyed each other's company. We never even shared many flights together, only a few in 93F and probably only a few dozen or so hours in other planes, but I enjoyed it all as I'm sure he has too. I was lucky to be able to have opened some new doors for Rob in this widely varied aviation thing we do. With me he has had a chance to fly old planes, newer planes, super small engines, pretty big engines, one engine, two engines, low wings, high wings, two wings, fabric wings, military wings, wheels on the front, wheels on the back, fly right side up or upside down, smelled smoke oil in a front row seat and been able to break the mold of the stereotypical, urban all pavement and concrete airport pilot with no less than a mile of runways in different directions. I'm proud of that. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy. But it's not all about flying either.
Rob was busy. The life he had with work in the city probably cramped his weekends with other homebound and marital duties. I don't blame him at all, life happens. I was busy, seemingly always. Working seven days a week is tiring to the point of numbness and draining, I almost don't even feel like I am a person anymore but more like a walking schedule for other people to fill blocks in on. Rob and I rarely had free time at all, leave alone time to try and get together to have fun. We made do. Almost every day, through email or instant messages, we would share thoughts on stupid news events or things that pissed us off at that moment, and it was always a good release. Like I said to him once, it's a good thing we hate equally. We both have a good sense of humor, even though I'm funnier than him, I have to be or I'd be in a straitjacket. We can still do this, so I think we'll be OK. I'm grateful for that.
We had a good time this weekend. Although I was stuck teaching all day Saturday -- the day of a party he was giving at his house for his departure -- he was able to visit the next day and spent at least 5 or 6 hours "being one of the crowd", blending right in with friends that already know him from other guest appearances and ones that I have already sold on him that he didn't even know. He was a celebrity for just showing up, and more than a good enough reason for me to line out my schedule for the day for some enjoyment. I know he had fun. Who couldn't? Sure, he flew his plane one last time, but also got to see the new owner grease on his very first C-150 landing, a miracle for that individual for sure. He also flew a WWII Boeing Stearman, very well I may add, except for some takeoff excursions, quite a feat since his last tailwheel time was in the last century (I think?), and enjoyed the Third Weekly Andover Airport Sunday Barbeque...if that's the name, with at least a dozen friends of his he barely knew. It was a good day.
Rob wanted desperately to take an inflight pic of his plane for posterity's sake, but I suggested against it, knowing damn well we will be able to get a more picturesque shot on a day with more than a mile visibility, we'll get that shot for sure, promise. Instead I made him do some more flying, he didn't protest that hard. I'll miss those opportunities too, they were too rare.
I'll miss seeing Rob, but we'll always have the same bond we have now, any time he is able to be on this side of the country and has the time I'm sure we can get together at least for a visit somehow. Those visits will be good. We're gonna be roomies this year at OSH in only a few weeks, that will be a fun time and a welcome break for me from work for a change. I was always glad to help in any way. We always had a good time. We'll have more, no matter where the bastard decides to move to next. I'll see ya soon pal, cheers to more good times!
written under the influence and in air conditioning, thank god for spellcheck....
Well, there you have it, a rare glimpse into the John & Rob dynamic. I love you too, John, and thanks for everything.