My Life with an Aviation Addict
I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that my husband is an incurable “aviation addict.” Since Oprah and Geraldo haven’t covered this topic yet, I’ll share with you my exclusive first-person account of how I learned to deal with this unique affliction.
Before I married, I vowed I would never be a weekend widow. I had heard war stories about “football fanatic” husbands, whose wives were perpetually awaiting the end of football season to get their attention long enough to tell them the car broke down or that child number three needed braces. Nope, I told myself, I’d find someone whose interests extended beyond the pro bowls.
No one warned me about “aviation addicts” however. When I met my future husband, he was charming, dashing, debonair… and to add a touch of mystique, he was a pilot. Sure, he liked football, but he’d rather hang out at the airport than vegetate on the couch watching slow-motion replays. I’d never been around airplanes much before, so it seemed incredibly romantic.
On our first vacation together we drove across Oregon, hopping from one airport to the next, inspecting any airplane that might conceivably come up for sale in our lifetime. I couldn’t tell you who was quarterbacking for the Seattle Seahawks that year, but I could rattle off the name of any aircraft broker in the western states.
I thought I’d go nuts if I heard one more discussion on the virtues of a Lycoming engine versus a Continental, so when my husband finally found an older Piper Warrior that we could afford without having to hawk our firstborn, he bought it with my blessings.
Now, I thought, this will get it out of his system. He can take a short jaunt in the Warrior whenever the urge strikes and the rest of the time we can be together at home; maybe watch a little football…
Not true. If he wasn’t flying it, he was washing and waxing it. He could remember the date of the engine’s last inspection faster than he could recall our wedding anniversary date. It became obvious that the only way I could spend time with my husband was at the airport. I had to find an interest that meshed with his.
“What about wing-walking?” I teased, just to get his attention.
“On my Warrior? No way. You’d scratch the paint when you fell off.” Was the honeymoon over or what?
“Okay, then, how about aerial photography?” I’d seen where people buy aerial photos of their homes, farms or businesses. I could spend time flying with my husband and make money, too.
We took a practice flight. My husband circled some farms while I snapped away with the camera. When the film was developed, we had 24 color glossies of the airplane’s right wingtip. Although my husband admired them (they showed off his nice wax job), we decided they just wouldn’t sell to the general public.
Well, then, I’d try navigation. My husband convinced me that it would not only be fun, but it would help him out as well. We took a trip up the Oregon-Washington coastline and I pored over the charts as he pointed out specific landmarks below and their corresponding location on the map. Easy peasy.
Then he turned inland. This wasn’t so easy. On the coast I at least knew which ocean we were over, but now I couldn’t tell one river from another. The only time I really knew where we were was when we landed at the Independence air field, because I could read the name painted in huge lettering on the runway.
Navigating wasn’t going to be the answer to my dilemma, either.
I was beginning to envy those weekend widows of football season. If they wanted to talk to their husbands, all they had to do was wait for a commercial break. I had to take the laundry outside and use it to spell out messages on the lawn.
I took a part time job at the local airport, answering the Unicom radio and pumping aviation fuel. I did see more of my husband (he waved whenever he taxied by), but relaying airport advisories to him over the radio wasn’t my idea of intimate conversation.
Finally I took an introductory flying lesson. I had tried everything but piloting, I thought. Maybe I would discover that I loved it as much as my husband did… maybe even more than football.
Within ten minutes of climbing into the cockpit alongside my instructor, I found myself careening at 60 miles per hour down a seemingly pencil-thin and all-too-short runway in a very expensive piece of machinery. No big deal, except that supposedly I was in control.
Just as I began to calculate the cost of replacing the runway lights I was about to overrun, the instructor rescued us and lifted the plane to momentary safety.
Then began a lesson on coordinating turns. The instructor shoved one rudder pedal forward to demonstrate its effect on the airplane. The nose of the aircraft veered sharply to one side, and my stomach lurched responsively in the other direction. The procedure was repeated with the other rudder pedal. By then I was green with something other than envy, and the only technique I wanted demonstrated was a speedy landing.
But, you know, it was kind of fun at that. Maybe the “aviation addiction” was creeping up on me all along. All I know is that I’m going back for more. And this fall, if anyone stops by our house to catch the Seahawks game, they’ll probably find the tube tuned in to an aviation ground school video instead.
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That actually was my one and only flying lesson. I turned to more artistic endeavors. I took acrylic painting lessons (painting aerial scenes) and stained glass (making my husband a glass panel of an airplane), and writing aviation articles for regional publications (my husband served as resident expert advisor). Occasionally, we watched football together.