The exhilaration and freedom of flight |

The exhilaration and freedom of flight

I’ve been reminiscing recently of my flying days, missing the freedom and beauty that only those who have been at the controls of a “flying machine” can appreciate.

This is an excerpt from my Log Book of flying Cessna N8411S, a 182 model, from Nevada County to Rio Vista and back – 42 minutes of the flight was at night – on June 11, 1977.

I had no way of knowing when I made this entry that it would be the last time I would log time at night for a long, long time. Yet the memory is still there – fresh and untarnished.

Sitting beside me is an absolutely wonderful friend and companion, she of the blond hair and blue eyes and the warm smile.

I also had no way of knowing that this would be our last flight together.

The years have not dimmed the memory or healed the pain of our parting; I do not know to this day which I missed the most, the lady or the flying.

3-6-95 Cessna 150 N13588 Nevada County Local flight .7 hours.

This was a night proficiency flight. Four takeoffs and four landings, this was required to get current for night flight.

Perched up there, I am surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of this aluminum magic carpet. This flight is almost a religious experience from start to finish. Here I am back after all of the years of denial. I am actually flying again. I also am solo, having gotten my medical and a check out and a BFR.

Yet in the right seat I feel the spirit of the lady who was on my last flight all of those years ago. I wonder where she is and how she is.

I wonder if I had put forth a little extra effort if she would still be in that seat in person. No answers come to me from these musings.

I feel a certain inner sadness which is not quite wiped from my mind by the beauty of this flight.

On my first takeoff I feel the freedom and exhilaration which flight has always brought to me.

I feel the 150 responding to my touch and doing my bidding, yet I know, like all airplanes, she has a spirit of her own, ready to take me places I cannot reach when I am earthbound, but also ready to teach me a lesson or two if I am not attentive to her every whim and need.

Words do not allow me to put all of the feelings I had that night on paper, some of them you will have to add yourself if you, too, have done what I was doing that cold, clear winter night.

Downwind for runway 07.

I key the mike to keep the runway lights on and marvel at their beauty. I pull out the carburetor heat and retard the throttle, all the while drinking deeply of the beauty that surrounds me.

I stabilize the airspeed at 70 mph and start making my base leg turn, all the while musing at the wonders which have put me back in the left seat. I bank the plane and line up on final approach, and the twin rows of runway lights look for all the world like two strands of pearls stretched out before me.

I key the mike and announce to anyone who might be listening; “Nevada County traffic, Cessna 13588 is one mile final for runway seven.”

But I do not say on the radio what the inner voice is saying to me: welcome back old birdman, welcome to the world of flight and the wonder of doing something that not everyone can do. Welcome back to the living.

In memory of my friend and lover Denise Zaugg.

Robert Steuber received his private pilot certificate in September, 1965. He has lived in Nevada County for the better part of his life to date.

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