How I Learned to Fly: The Fifty-Year Ticket

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It took me forty-seven years to earn my license, but it was worth the wait!

TrainingIn 1950 I was asked by Dean Bill Bender to take a sabbatical from my studies at Harvard College. Various extracurricular activities seemed far more enticing than the books my family was paying big bucks for me to study. During a term forcibly spent at home on the island of Martha's Vineyard this wayward student took a course Harvard didn't include in the curriculum at that time: highway construction!

What a surprise to discover studying is a shortcut to a better life. My parents were furious, but an Uncle offered me an incentive to get back into his alma mater, Harvard, and get my degree. He fronted me the cost of what I had always wanted: flying lessons.

An Air Force CFI named Steve Gentle who had returned to Edgartown after the war, taught me the rudiments of getting a Piper J-3 Cub safely into the air and back to earth. That August he watched me solo. I returned to Harvard in the Fall.

That was 1950. Money and time never seemed in confluence sufficiently to complete the license. In the Navy there were opportunities to ride in everything from P-3's to TA4's but the license eluded me.

Fast-forward to October 1996. Still dreaming of flying, a casual remark to my loving spouse of twenty-five years intimated that were the money available, the whole thing could be consummated in week's time.

A week? C'mon, dreamer. In my defense, it had been a few years.

She dared me to do it. She said she'd find the money.

Is that a partner or what?

We had explored Whiteman Airport in the North East San Fernando Valley some years before. It's small, almost family-like, hidden under the big Class C air space of Hollywood-Burbank Airport. That was our choice.

The voice that answered the phone at Whiteman's Vista Aviation belonged to a girl named Patty. She had such a smile in her tone, I was sold immediately. Dusty Rhodes, owner and proprietor, put me with a young Embry-Riddle graduate named Chris Green.

What a picture, sixty-six years old, finally realizing the dream. The private ticket was awarded on May 22nd, l997.

Chris Green is now teaching my son, Sid, to fly.

Forty-seven years between solo and license, but thank God the dream never died.

It's never too late. Flying is as wonderful now as it was in 1950. Maybe more so, after waiting for it for so many years.

Never give up!