“Darling, you’re not getting me up in that little tin can”, she declared while skeptically surveying the 40-year-old Cessna 152 sitting on the tarmac in front of us.
“Sweetheart, it will be fine. Don’t be afraid, it’s quite safe”, I cooed while edging her closer to the little airplane. “You’re going to love it!” I said, hoping I sounded more confident than I felt.
The little plane looked quite smart despite its age, with its green stripes set off against a white background. At least from the outside it looked smart. Once the doors creaked open and the dated interior came into view its age became more obvious. Frayed upholstery, tattered carpeting and sun-bleached plastic
dash do not inspire one to jump in. Still, it’s the key components of an aircraft that matter not the aesthetics – its engine, instruments and wing and fuselage structure. Those I had confidence in. The flight school was known for being on top of regular maintenance.
Somehow she was not deterred by the less-than-auspicious interior and I got her in and buckled up. Before long we were trundling down the taxiway and preparing for take off. The final run-up checks went smoothly and after waiting for an incoming Piper to land it was our turn to take off. I pushed the throttle ahead firmly, the engine roared and the little craft jumped forward. A slight cross-wind meant that I needed some cross control inputs to make sure we remained close to the centre line as we gained speed. I hoped she didn’t notice that we wandered a little around the line. I didn’t want to give any reason to validate her nerves. But soon enough we were off the ground and heading up into the sky.
It was a glorious day. The verdant fields slipping below us were bathed in warming sunshine. Puffy white cumulus clouds surrounded us and the onboard thermometer confirmed what we felt – the temperature was dropping as we climbed out of the heat at ground level. The slight melancholy I had felt the night before was fully dissipated by this wonderful feeling of freewheeling above the earth, alone together in our little flying machine. I took a surreptitious glance at her face. She was calmly peering down at the world passing below. I believe she felt the same as I – I hoped so.
Our flight plan took us north at 6000 feet over a crazy quilt of farmers’ fields. From this altitude, a Greyhound bus and transport truck on the road below looked like children’s toys. In the distance, lakes and forests came into view. Soon we would be leaving the more populous southern areas and heading over increasing wilderness. After sometime the landscape under us turned rugged, with granite rock faces and lonely pines replacing the cornstalks, grass and cows we had flown over earlier. Many small lakes lay below and around them cabins and cottages were evident. One eccentric landowner, perhaps with more money than brains, had built a pyramid-shaped cottage on a beautiful promontory dominating one of the larger lakes, completely out of keeping with its surroundings.
A mere 75 minutes after takeoff we touched down on the private airstrip of a northern resort. It had been several hours since lunch, which had only consisted of a small ham and mustard sandwich, so I was happy to head to dinner shortly after checking in. Dinner of fresh-caught perch, cooked to perfection and eaten on the candle-lit deck overlooking the lake, accompanied by a subtle French Chablis could not have been more sublime. Both of us wore the grins that said it had been a wonderful day. Even the night porter who held the door for us as we re-entered the hotel remarked how relaxed we looked. The “little tin can” had worked its magic.